19. Not Laughing

“Ready for Jake’s party?” Evan asked from the driver’s seat, easily releasing
the formal disposition I’d witnessed most of the evening.

“After that, I’m ready for anything.”
“We’l see,” he grinned. “Maybe I’l be the one laughing at the end of the
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, suddenly nervous.
“Nothing,” he replied, continuing to grin.
When we puled into Jake’s driveway, there were already a dozen or so
cars lining it, making us the last vehicle to fit before the street. Evan
kept watch outside the car while I changed into a pair of jeans and
more manageable shoes.
“So much better,” I breathed when I stepped out of the car.
“You stil look good,” Evan remarked with a half smile. I ignored him.
I kept the same guard while he changed from his suit into a pair of
jeans and a sweater.
“Whenever you want to leave, we leave,” Evan told me as we approached
the front door. “Don’t feel bad either. He invited you, this
isn’t for me. I’m just here because you are.”
“Okay,” I agreed, trying to read into his warning. He’d been acting
strange about this party since I’d mentioned it. But I couldn’t figure
out why.
I rang the doorbel since it seemed more appropriate than just walking
in. It wasn’t the loud scene we encountered at Scott’s party. Jake
answered the door with a huge smile.

“Emma! You’re here! Sara said you’d be here soon,” he said opening
the door wider for us to enter. His welcoming smile faltered when he
found Evan behind me. “Oh, you brought Evan.” Evan gave him a
quick smirk.
“Nice to see you, Jake,” Evan said, patting his hand on Jake’s shoulder
as we passed him to enter. Jake shut the door and turned to Evan.
“Sorry, man. You may be outnumbered tonight,” Jake informed him
with a snide grin.
“I’m not worried.”
I had no idea what they were talking about, but could definitely sense
a little tension. I studied Evan’s face for a sign, but he just smiled at
“You can hang your coats in the closet.” Jake pointed to the door next
to the entrance.
The smal foyer led down a halway. As we folowed Jake, I noticed an
entrance on the left that opened into a living room with an overstuffed
couch and a large flat-screened TV. To the right was another room
with a long leather couch and a desk, presumably an office.
The rooms were dimly lit by flickering candlelight. There were only a
few people in each room, quietly conversing. A soothing jazz tune with
a soulful trumpet blaring carried throughout the house. The end of the
hal revealed a set of carpeted stairs and then it opened up into a kitchen.
The kitchen was bright with the overhead lights gleaming off the
white surfaces.
Sara was leaning against the island laughing at something Jason said.
She looked up when we entered the room.

“Drinks are downstairs,” Jake offered. “Relax and have a good time. I’l
be right back.” He disappeared down a set of stairs that connected
with the stairs leading up.
“Emma, Evan!” Sara exclaimed. “How was dinner?”
“Filing,” I replied, with a quick laugh. Evan pressed his lips together
and scowled at me.
Sara examined us with her brows puled together, trying to decipher
our exchange.
“I’l tel you later,” I said quickly, stil grinning. “When did you guys get
“We haven’t been here that long,” Sara admitted. “I was going to give
you a few more minutes before I caled.”
“Where is everyone?” I asked, looking around then picking up on the
smal grin that Evan wasn’t doing a very good job of hiding.
“I honestly don’t know,” Sara confessed, looking around too.
“We realy did just get here. I think everyone must be downstairs, but I
don’t think there’s a lot of people here.”
We were interrupted by the ringing of the door bel. Jake bounded up
the steps and strode down the hal. Six more people I didn’t know
entered the house – they looked like seniors.
“I think everyone’s here,” I overheard Jake tel one of the guys when
they neared the kitchen.

“Emma Thomas?” the guy whispered, in shock. I tried to pretend I
didn’t hear him.
“Don’t even think about it,” Jake whispered firmly, leading the group
down the stairs.
Evan pressed his lips together to keep from laughing. I narrowed my
eyes, knowing something was up. He raised his eyebrows and
shrugged, looking away to avoid my glare.
“Do you want to go downstairs?” Sara asked, as it was obvious we were
the only ones upstairs, except for the few people in the front rooms.
“Might as wel,” I agreed.
Sara and I walked down together, while Jason and Evan folowed behind
us discussing a footbal game or something. We entered the shadowy
basement with its low ceilings. At the base of the stairs was a long
dark bar, with tal black leather chairs puled up to it. There were a few
people sitting on the chairs, talking. When I scanned the wide “U”
shaped space, I estimated about fifteen people dispersed throughout
Besides those at the bar, there were others sitting on a sectional couch
in front of a suspended television. The rest were clustered around a
pool table across from the stairs or sitting on the black leather sofa
tucked in against the wal. I was surprised that no one was playing pool
or watching TV. The same sultry soulful music piped through the
speakers down here
“Want a drink?” Jake offered as we congregated at the end of the bar.
“Do you have soda?”

“Sure, it’s in the fridge on the other side of the basement. There’s a
door over there - help yourself.”
I cut through the sectional area, through the door he indicated into the
unfinished side of the basement. Against the wal was an old white refrigerator
filed with bottles and cans of a variety of sodas. I grabbed a
bottle and returned to Evan, Jason and Sara, who were stil standing at
the bar.
“What do you think?” I whispered to Sara, who was sipping something
red from a glass. “Does this feel weird to you?”
“I have a feeling I know what’s going on,” she admitted. “I’ve always
wondered what Jake’s parties were al about, but I had no idea. Guess
he never wanted to invite the judge’s daughter for a reason.”
Before I could ask what she was talking about, Jake approached again.
“Evan,” Jake beckoned, “I want you to meet a couple of people I don’t
think you know.”
Evan looked at Jake curiously. He hesitated to say, “I’l be right back,”
before walking away. I nodded, not realy concerned. I had no idea why
he was acting so weird, but this party wasn’t nearly as intimidating as
the last. I wasn’t worried about being left alone. There realy wasn’t
much going on.
“I wish we could play pool or something,” I told Jason and Sara. “It
feels strange just standing here.”
“It’s not that kind of party,” Sara whispered with a knowing grin.
“What do you mean?” I was so confused and kinda bored to be honest.

“Hey,” a smal brunette exclaimed walking down the stairs. Sara turned
toward her and smiled.
“Hey Bridgette!” Sara returned enthusiasticaly.
Bridgette was folowed closely by one of the guys from the soccer team.
She greeted Sara with a quick hug.
“I didn’t know you were going to be here,” the petite brunette said to
Sara in surprise.
“We came with Emma,” Sara explained. “Emma this is Bridgette.”
“Hi,” I said softly. She smiled politely, casualy eyeing me. The guy’s
hand slid around the Bridgette’s waist, resting low so it was practicaly
holding her ass. I looked up at her face, pretending not to have
Jason started talking to him, apparently they knew each other too. The
entire time, the guy’s hand remained attached to Bridgette. It was almost
as if he were claiming her or something.
“Did you just get here?” Bridgette asked.
“Not that long ago,” Sara replied.
“I didn’t realize you were interested in Rich,” Sara whispered, nodding
to the guy with the branding hand.
“I figured, why not?” Bridgette declared with a shrug. Sara tightened
her eyes at the response but didn’t inquire further. Instead, she and
Bridgette began talking about their mothers, who apparently knew
each other, and other subjects they had in common that I knew

nothing about. I puled out one of the black leather bar chairs to sit and
half listened as I fiddled with the soda bottle.
“We’re going upstairs,” Sara said after awhile. “Wil you be okay? I
promise I’l be right back.”
“Sure.” I nodded with a reassuring smile.
“Don’t go anywhere,” she warned, leaving me even more confused.
I scanned the room but couldn’t locate which group Evan was in with
the lights so low.
“Left alone?” a voice asked from behind me. I turned to find a dark
haired guy with vibrant bluish-green eyes leaning against the chair
next to me. I recognized him as one of the guys who arrived after we
“For now,” I said with a smal shrug.
“That’s not good.”
“How do you know Jake?” I asked.
“We’re friends – we’re both seniors,” he explained. “You’re Emma
Thomas, right?”
“Yeah,” I said slowly, trying to figure out if I should know who he was.
“I’m Drew Carson. I realize you probably don’t know me.”
But something made me wonder why I did. His name sounded so familiar,
but I couldn’t quite place it.

“But you know who I am?”
“Of course.” He laughed. “That was a great game last night. I heard
you have scouts looking to pick you up.”
I blushed. “Yeah. So you were at the game?”
“Who wasn’t?” His sincerity made me smile.
“Why do I recognize you? I know I’ve seen you,” I struggled,
“but I can’t place it.”
“Basketbal probably,” he offered. That was it. Drew Carson, captain of
the guys’ basketbal team this season. That made sense with his lean
built frame. How had I not noticed him in school? But then again, it
seemed I didn’t notice anyone in school unless they threw themselves
in front of me.
“That’s it. Sorry.”
“That’s al right. I should have tried to talk to you before tonight,” he
admitted. “But I’m glad you’re here. I’m surprised you’re here, but
whatever.” He revealed a sparkling smile as his cheeks creased with
deep dimples. Honestly, how did I not notice him before - he was
“I like your sweater,” he said, after a few seconds of silence.
“Thanks.” I blushed again. I was searching for anything to say that
wouldn’t sound forced. “Do you ski?” I had no idea where the question
came from, but it was the first thing that came out of my mouth. Could
I be any more pathetic?

“Yeah, I’m going to Vermont next weekend with my family. Do you?”
“Actualy, I don’t.” We both looked at each other and started laughing
at the awkwardness. Our laughter was loud against the murmuring
voices, invoking a few annoyed stares.
“Oops.” I smiled, covering my mouth. “I didn’t realize we were supposed
to be quiet.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, smiling back. “They’re just taking this
way too seriously.” I was confused by what he meant, but most of tonight
seemed confusing. I’d figure it out eventualy, hopefuly.
“Do you do anything else besides play basketbal and ski?” I asked, stil
trying to keep the conversation alive, but not as stressed after our
“I surf and try to go white water kayaking when I can.” Then he continued
to talk about the best waves he’d ever surfed – in Australia. I
listened and was soon engrossed in his story. We continued back and
forth until it occurred to me that it had been a long time since Evan,
Sara and Jason disappeared. I glanced around casualy while contributing
to the conversation but was unable to make out any of their faces
in the dark corners.
“I’l be right back,” I announced. “I’m going to get another drink.”
“I need to run up to the bathroom,” Drew said, pointing up the stairs.
“Meet you back here?” He actualy wanted to keep talking to me?
“Sure,” I agreed.
I walked through the space with the sectionals again, discretely trying
to look at the faces to find Evan or Sara. I was shocked to walk in on a

few couples kissing - heavily. It didn’t seem to bother them that I was
there or that there were other couples next to them doing the same
thing. I kept my eyes to the ground until I heard the heavy breathing
and walked faster.
When I was behind the closed door, I tried to figure out how I was going
to get through there again. I inspected the other side of the basement,
hoping there was a door that connected to the pool table side,
but was disappointed. The only other door was a bulkhead that led to
the backyard. Was I that desperate?
“There you are.” I spun around and found Jake closing the door behind
“Hi Jake,” I responded casualy, trying to conceal my anxiety.
“I’ve wanted to talk to you al night,” he confessed while approaching
me. “But I didn’t realy want to do it here.” He presented the dingy surroundings,
sounding overly cocky. “Let me show you around the
house, and we can find somewhere private to…” he paused before
adding, “talk.” He smirked like it was an inside joke. Everything suddenly
made sense. I remained stil, catching myself before dropping my
mouth wide open in shock.
“Uh, wel…” I stumbled, looking past him to the closed door.
“Thanks, but I don’t need a tour. We can talk at the bar?”
“I was hoping for some place with less people.” He winked. No way,
again?! I couldn’t help myself; the words were coming out of my
mouth before I could stop them.
“Who are you?” I questioned, aghast at his boldness.

“What?” he questioned in shock.
“This is a hook up party, isn’t it?” It came out more as an accusation
than a question. I couldn’t believe how long it had taken me to figure it
“Whatever happens, happens,” he said with a devious smirk. I remained
dumbfounded by his arrogance.
“And so you decided to invite me?” I questioned, unable to imagine
how that made sense.
“Why not?” he asked, not catching on, stil overly confident.
“You obviously don’t know me,” I bit, unable to conceal my disgust.
“Why would you think I’d want to hook up with you?”
“Ouch,” he replied, not looking pleased anymore.
Before I could say anything else that would make me not want to show
my face in school again, I hurried past him to discover that the door
was open. Evan stood in the frame, with his hand stil on the handle. I
didn’t know how long he’d been listening, but it must have been for
most of it because he greeted me with his amused grin.
“You are so dead,” I threatened as I pushed past him. It only added to
his amusement as he let out a smal laugh.
“Hey, Emma,” Drew started when he saw me approaching. Then he
looked at my face, which hid nothing, and asked, “What happened?”
“Were you in on this too?” I bit.

I didn’t wait for his answer as I rushed up the stairs and found Sara
and Jason talking in the kitchen with their jackets on.
“Can we please go?” I pleaded. “This is too weird.”
“We were just coming to get you,” Sara admitted. “I was wondering
how long it was going to take for you to want to leave. Let’s go back to
my place.”
“Sure,” Evan agreed from behind me.
I turned sharply and snapped, “I don’t think she was inviting you.”
Sara’s eyes widened at my attack. I continued down the hal to retrieve
my jacket from the closet.
Sara and Jason headed to Sara’s car while I paced myself a step ahead
of Evan to his.
After he shut his door, he said, “I should have warned you. I’m sorry.”
“Evan, you knew, and you stil let me come here?” I yeled.
“I knew nothing was going to happen. I wasn’t afraid you were going
to do anything, and I hoped that you’d let Jake see you’re not into him
– which you definitely did. I’m so sick of hearing him talk about…” He
stopped himself.
“I’m sorry, realy.” His face was serious and his eyes soft, forcing my
anger to dissipate.
“Fine, you can come over to Sara’s.” I stil found it difficult to be upset
with him for very long.

After we puled out of the driveway, my stomach shot out a charge that
caused my heart to stammer. “Evan, where were you?
And you said you’ve been to one of his parties before. Are you serious?
Did you… who… no way.” My voice grew louder with each unfinished
Evan laughed.
“Forget it, it’s none of my business,” I murmured quietly, looking out
the window. I was tormented by the possibilities.
“Relax. Jake was trying to keep me distracted by introducing me to
some girls, so he could talk to you. He was pissed that I was there. He
knew you’d bring Sara, and she’d probably bring Jason, but he wasn’t
expecting me. So I was just talking - like you were with Drew Carson,
right?” My heart skipped a beat.
“I’ve only been to one other party of Jake’s, and I didn’t know what
they were al about when accepted the invite. I didn’t…” He had a hard
time finding the words. I turned to look at him, realizing he couldn’t
tel me what he’d done.
“Realy?” I accused in shock.
“It’s not what you think,” he defended. “I’d rather not get into details.”
We were quiet for a moment. I stared out the window at the silhouetted
trees and the occasional up-lit house.
“Does that realy bother you?” he finaly asked.
“That I may have kissed a girl or whatever at one of Jake’s parties?”

I hesitated before answering. “I didn’t think you were like that,” I
replied softly.
“I’m not,” he claimed emphaticaly. “That’s why I’ve only gone to the
one party, and I didn’t do what you probably think I did. That’s not
what interests me. It’s too important of a decision to pick someone at
random, in someone else’s house.”
I let out an awkward laugh and tried to catch myself before I let out
“What’s so funny?”
“I can’t talk about this with you.” I let out another uneasy laugh. “It’s
too weird. Sorry.”
“You think talking about sex is weird?”
“No. Talking about it with you is weird,” I emphasized. “Can we please
change the subject?”
“So, you’ve never…” he started.
“Evan!” I yeled.
“Of course not,” he concluded quietly.
“And you have?” I asked before I could shut my mouth.
“I thought we weren’t talking about it.”
“We’re not,” I said, turning to look out the window again. We didn’t
say another word until we puled into Sara’s driveway.

“Do you stil want me to come in?” he asked.
“Do you stil want to?” I asked in return.
“Of course I do.”
“Then come in.”
We folowed behind Sara and Jason into the house. Sara let her parents
know we were home before we headed up the stairs.
“Would you mind if Jason and I watch a movie in my room?”
Sara whispered as she and I folowed a few steps behind the guys to the
third floor.
“Are you serious?!” I asked. She begged with her widened eyes. “Fine.”
I conceded. She smiled gratefuly.
Sara bent over the couch as Jason sat down and whispered in his ear.
He grinned and folowed her into the bedroom. Evan looked to me, trying
to interpret what just happened.
“They want alone time,” I shared. He nodded, suddenly
“What movie are we watching?” I inquired, sitting on the opposite end
of the couch.
“Are you going to stay awake this time?”
“Yes,” I stressed, appearing offended.

Evan selected a movie about a smal town, where people were inexplicably
After a while, the exhaustion started puling at me, so I grabbed a pilow
and curled up in the empty space on the couch next to Evan to continue
watching the movie – stil committed to staying awake. I began
fighting with my eyelids as they attempted to glue themselves shut
every time I blinked. Finaly, I gave in.
“Emma,” Sara whispered, gently shaking my shoulder. She sounded
distant as I struggled against consciousness – I was too comfortable.
“Em, you know it’s two o’clock in the morning, don’t you?”
Her whisper was louder, coming in more clearly. I groaned to acknowledge
I heard her. Then I felt the weight around my waist and warmth
against my back. I blinked my eyes open, attempting to focus. I heard
the rhythmic breathing behind my ear and felt the warm breath upon
my neck. My eyes grew wider.
“What are you doing?” Sara demanded. I glanced behind me in
“Sara,” I whispered emphaticaly, “how could you let this happen?” I
carefuly removed the arm from around my waist then slowly slid off
the couch. I looked at Sara with huge eyes and my mouth open
“Me? I didn’t do anything,” she whispered firmly. I crept over to the
stairs; Sara folowed.
“I fel asleep,” I whispered vehemently. “I had no idea he was stil here;
forget about that.” I pointed to his position on the couch. Sara tried
not to laugh. “Em, you two looked so cute.” I swatted at her arm.

“Knock it off Sara,” I demanded, stil whispering. “What am I supposed
to do now?”
“Wake him up and kick him out.”
“Why can’t you?”
“He’s al yours.” She laughed and went to her room.
“Sara,” I yeled in a whisper at the closed door.
I sighed, looking over at the couch. He did look so peaceful lying
curled up on his side. I folded my knees into me as I scrunched at the
end of the couch next to his feet. I watched him sleep for a minute, trying
to build up the nerve to wake him. I kicked the back of his thigh
gently with my foot.
“Evan,” I caled softly. He didn’t respond, so I pushed a little harder,
rocking him. “Evan, you need to wake up.”
“Hmmm,” he groaned, peeking out from under his long dark lashes.
He peered up at me and grinned. “Hi.” He stretched his arms above
him and turned onto his back so that he could face me.
“Hi,” I whispered.
“What time is it?” he asked with a groggy voice.
“Two in the morning.”
“No way,” he replied in disbelief, pushing himself up to sit.
“Why did you let me fal asleep?”

“Me? I think I fel asleep before you did.”
“Yeah,” he remembered, “that’s right. “
“Are you going to be okay to drive home?”
“Why? Would you let me sleep here?”
“No,” I admitted. “I was just trying to sound concerned.” He smiled -
finaly fuly awake.
“Did I kick you off the couch?” he asked, trying to take in the scene.
“I slept just fine,” I admitted, avoiding his question. Evan stood up and
stretched again. He found his shoes and slipped them on his feet.
“Wil I see you… today, actualy?” he confirmed, grabbing his jacket
from the back of the chair.
“I have to be home by four, so I need to be back here by three. Would
you rather sleep?”
“No, it’s Sunday. It’s my day – so, I’l pick you up at ten, okay?”
“Can we make it eleven?” I countered, thinking about how late Sara
and I would sleep in, and that we stil needed to compare stories.
“Realy?” he pleaded. “Ten-thirty?”
I stood from the couch to walk him down the stairs. We snuck to the
first floor, careful not to wake Sara’s parents. I stopped on the bottom
step as he went for the door. He turned to look at me without saying a
word. I stood with my arms crossed, bracing myself against the cold
air seeping in through the open door. His lingering made me nervous,
igniting a tingling in my stomach.
“Good night,” I finaly whispered, trying to urge him to leave.
“Good night,” he replied and walked out the door.
I locked it behind him, and quickly ascended the stairs to Sara’s room.
She was waiting for me in her bed.
“Did he kiss you?” she inquired eagerly.
“No! Sara, you can’t ask me questions like that - like you’re hoping he
has - and then try to tel me we can’t date.”
“You’re right,” she admitted with a sigh. “I promise to try to be more
consistent. But I realy want you to kiss him.”
“Then keep it to yourself. Good night, Sara.”
I slipped under the covers after preparing for bed, compeling sleep to
find me again, so I wouldn’t think about if I wanted Evan to kiss me.
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