30. Life of the Party
A vibrant smile emerged on Evan’s face when we neared the bottom of
the stairs. I couldn’t help but smile in return.
“That’s definitely my favorite sweater,” Evan confessed when I reached
the bottom step.
“I told you!” Sara exclaimed, referencing my hesitation to purchase the
pink sweater with a swooping neck line that was mimicked by a low
back. The heat on my face crept to my ears and down my neck.
While we were putting on our coats, Evan asked Sara, “Do you mind if
Emma and I go for a quick walk before we go? I have to ask her
Sara flashed me a glance and answered, “Sure. Come get me when
My heart was paralyzed in my chest, unable to think of what else he
might want to know. My fear was justified when the question left his
“So, the nightmares…” he remarked quietly. “That’s what Sara was
talking about yesterday, huh?”
I avoided his eyes, folowing the ground as we walked.
“I’m sorry,” he said, forcing me to look up into his distressed eyes with
the tilt of his head.
“It’s not your fault,” I whispered.
“I’l make it up to you, I promise,” he offered with a soft smile. Evan
put his arms around my waist as I reached up on my toes and pressed
my lips against his. He held me tighter and sparks richocheted
through my body. I breathed him in with each slow, deliberate pass of
our lips. My head buzzed as his rhythm quickened and our lips parted.
I let out a quick breath, pressing against him. He lifted his head with a
“Why do you keep doing that?” I demanded in frustration, not wanting
it to be over.
“We’re in the middle of the street,” he noted, glancing around. I slowly
sank to my feet, releasing my hold with a sulking breath. He wore an
amused grin as we made our way back to Sara’s. I examined him curiously,
silently demanding an explanation.
“Just not what I expected from you,” he explained. My eyes tightened
in concern to which he quickly blurted, “Oh, it’s not bad, believe me.
It’s just… you are interesting.”
We parked in a large field across from Alison Bartlett’s house, which
was already filed with cars. Her house was about a mile in from the
road, with no neighbors in sight – probably why it was such a popular
party. The noise of conversation and music carried across the field as
we stepped out of the car.
“I’m not going to be the third wheel,” Sara declared. “So I’m going in
by myself, and I’l meet you in there.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, surprised that she preferred to go in alone
rather than with us.
“Yeah, definitely,” she laughed. “Besides, I want to see everyone’s reaction
when you walk in.”
I shook my head in disbelief as she walked toward the noise. I
nervously looked at Evan as he came around the car to meet me. He
stopped in front of me and took both of my hands in his.
“Ready?” he asked with a half smile.
“Sure,” I shrugged.
He leaned toward me and delicately grazed my lips with his. The tease
left me breathless, burning for more.
“I keep having to remind myself that I can do that,” he smirked.
“I’ve been programmed that it was off limits for so long; now it’s going
to take some getting used to.”
“You definitely have my permission,” I breathed, leaning toward him
Just before we were able to connect, I heard, “Holy shit! Evan
I sank back to my flat feet with a groaning sigh.
“Wait. And Emma Thomas? This is crazy.”
I turned to face the annoyance. Of al the people to find out first!
“Hi Jay,” Evan said casualy. I clenched my teeth together before I
turned to face him.
“Hi,” I said quickly, feeling the burning cover my cheeks - so much for
“When did you get back?” he asked Evan.
Jay raised his eyebrows and looked back and forth between us, “Wasting
no time, I see.”
My eyes widened as my mouth dropped open, “Jay!”
“Just saying,” he said in his al too familiar stance of feigned innocence.
“Going in?” Evan asked, ignoring his comment.
Evan took my hand and we walked alongside Jay into the house. There
were people scattered on the front lawn and steps as we approached.
The open door released the blare of music and voices which became
practicaly deafening as we got closer. I pushed out a quick breath
through my pursed lips before we entered. Evan squeezed my hand
and glanced at me with a grin. Jay squirmed his way in ahead of us.
It was as bad as I feared. There was gawking, whispering, and even
some pointing as we made our way through the crowd toward the kitchen.
The guys welcomed Evan back with enthusiasm, while the girls
just stared in shock, whispering to each other as we passed. Why did I
think coming here was a good idea?
“You made it!” Sara praised as we squeezed into the kitchen.
“Wel, everyone knows you’re here now. Jay was seriously the first person
you saw?” She shook her head in amazement. “You couldn’t have
made a quieter entrance, could you?”
Evan laughed while I groaned at her sarcasm.
“This is crazy,” I yeled to Sara as I took in the shoulder rubbing mass
of bodies that continued onto the deck. Sara nodded in agreement.
“Do you want something to drink?” Evan leaned in close to ask in my
Evan walked towards the bar and within a few feet, he was completely
devoured by the crowd.
“Emma!” Jil exclaimed as she wiggled through to get to us. She looked
around, “Where’s Evan? I heard you came here together.”
“He’s getting drinks,” I shouted back to her, resigned that this was
probably going to be the topic of the night.
“I am so excited for you,” she shrieked. “Finaly! I heard he came back
once he heard about you and Drew.”
“What?!” I yeled, shocked by the latest rumor. “Where does this stuff
“You’re together right?” she confirmed cautiously.
“Yeah,” I said slowly and then added emphaticaly, “but Drew has nothing
to do with it.”
“Let the stories begin,” Sara declared with an amused expression. I
eyed her disapprovingly.
“Hi!” Lauren shouted with a huge smile on her face. “You and Evan,
huh? That is so amazing!”
“Hi, Lauren,” I greeted with a sigh.
“Where is he?” she asked looking around.
“Getting drinks,” Jil yeled back.
“Is there anywhere we can go that doesn’t require yeling?” I asked.
Jil pointed to the porch. I debated whether or not I should wait for
Evan, but being jostled by the crowd and having to yel to be heard was
wearing on me. I was convinced he’d find us. I nodded to the girls to
head out the door. We held onto each others’ arms so we wouldn’t get
separated as we maneuvered through the human maze.
I took a breath of the cool air, relieved to be away from the confines of
“Great,” Jil said facing me, “now we can hear al about it. When did he
I knew this was coming, but it didn’t make the griling any less
“And…” Lauren encouraged. “What happened?”
I wasn’t sure what to say as I looked at their eager faces.
“There you guys are,” Casey exclaimed. The girls opened the circle to
“Emma was just teling us about what happened with Evan,”
“Evan’s back?” Casey asked in disbelief.
We laughed at her cluelessness.
“Where have you been?” Jil gawked.
Casey shrugged sheepishly.
“So…” Lauren pressed, looking back at me.
“Um… he apologized; I apologized, and that’s it. We’re…
better.” They looked confused, not pleased with the lack of detail.
“That’s it?” Casey asked, stil not understanding what was going on.
“What do you mean?” I asked innocently.
Lauren moaned in frustration. “I wanted to hear how he swept you in
his arms, begging for you to take him back, and kissed you for hours.”
Her dramatization caused us al to burst out laughing.
“Sorry,” I shrugged, stil smiling. “It’s not going to happen.”
“Does he know about Drew?” Jil cringed.
“Yeah,” I said quietly.
“Does he know everything?” Casey asked in shock. I roled my eyes
knowing exactly what she meant.
“Casey!” Sara exclaimed swatting at her arm. “You realy suck with
keeping up. That never happened!”
“Oh,” Casey said apologeticaly.
“Just to warn you, he’s here,” Lauren said. “And he’s not with Katie.
They broke up Thursday night. ”
“That’s fine,” I shrugged, not realy concerned with seeing Drew with or
“They broke up already?” Sara gasped.
“Definitely,” Jil murmured under her breath. She looked around, realizing
she was overheard and we were al waiting for her to continue.
“Jil, don’t you dare hold out,” Sara threatened.
“You have to promise not to tel anyone,” Jil stressed, then continued
without waiting for our commitment. “Drew got Katie pregnant.”
“No he didn’t,” Lauren stated in wide eyed shock.
“Wel, she’s not anymore,” Jil continued, loving that she was the one
revealing the headlining gossip.
“Did she…” Sara started, but Jil shrugged before she could ask.
“Not sure what happened exactly. Either she lost it or her parents
made her get rid of it,” Jil explained dismissively, not realy concerned
with the truth. “But I think Drew just dated her because she was pregnant
and broke up with her when he didn’t have to deal with it
“Wait,” I interjected pensively. “When did she get pregnant?”
The girls turned toward me with sympathetic eyes – wondering the
same thing I was.
“Not while you were together,” Jil offered. “I guess they hooked up
over the holiday break before you were official.”
“I can’t believe she was pregnant,” Casey mouthed again, stil absorbing
I felt bad for Katie, and the fact that we were standing in the backyard
at a party talking about her most intimate secret made me feel guilty.
I wandered away from the conversation, not wanting to hear anymore.
I scanned the crowd along the deck, looking for Evan. I saw him at the
top of the stairs searching the faces below in the yard. Our eyes connected,
and he grinned, making me smile in return.
“Hi,” he greeted with a crooked smile when he approached. “I figured
you wouldn’t want to stay inside.”
I shook my head, taking the bottle he handed me. He set his hand on
my lower back, escorting me back to the girls. With the exception of
Sara, they al looked at us, with ridiculous gawking grins. I roled my
“Hi, Evan,” Jil sang. “Welcome back.” Lauren and Casey giggled.
“Thanks,” he said politely, giving me quizzical glance. I just shook my
head and sighed.
Our smal group stayed outside and talked about the latest gossip,
usualy inspired by the people passing by. Evan and I stood there
quietly, his arm around my waist, forced to listen. There would be a
periodic interruption when someone recognized Evan and would ask
about his return.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” I told the girls while Evan was talking to
a guy from the soccer team.
“I’l go with you,” Sara offered, grabbing me by the arm.
“This party isn’t so bad,” Sara said in my ear as we climbed the stairs
to the deck. I shrugged, agreeing reluctantly. We made our way
through the kitchen and found the line for the bathroom.
“I hope you don’t have to go that bad,” Sara said, eyeing the wait.
“I can wait,” I assured her, leaning against the wal.
“Tony Sharpa asked me out,” Sara confessed casualy.
“When did this happen?” I asked, trying to recal how long she was in
here before Evan and I found her.
“Yesterday, during study.”
“Why didn’t you tel me?!” I asked in astonishment.
“It wasn’t that important,” she laughed. “Not with Evan coming back
and everything. Besides, I said ‘no’. He’s the games I was referring to
“Yeah, didn’t you like him when he was dating Niki, and then he liked
you when you were with Jason?”
She nodded, recaling the bad timing of their interest in one another.
“So, what’s wrong now? You’re both single finaly,” I questioned,
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “It feels forced now.”
I didn’t understand what she meant, and before I could ask her to explain,
we were interrupted.
“I heard you were here,” the voice said from behind me. My heart
stopped and my stomach turned. I stood frozen, unable to turn
Before I could pul myself together to face him, Drew appeared beside
me, leaning his shoulder against the wal. My nose scrunched with the
burn of liquor floating on his breath. It appeared he needed the wal to
keep from faling to the floor.
“Had a little to drink, Drew?” Sara accused.
“Hi, Sara,” Drew slurred with a smile. “You didn’t like me, did you?”
Sara smiled, amused by his drunken honesty.
“Stil don’t,” Sara replied with a malicious grin. “Maybe you should
leave us alone.”
We were gaining an audience. Everyone around us quieted to listen. I
glanced around, wondering how to get out of this without causing a
“Come with me.” Drew tightly gripped my wrist and dragged me stumbling
after him into the bathroom, pushing past the person who was
about to enter. Sara reached out to grab me, but the crowd closed in
around Drew and me, barricading Sara as we moved past them.
He forced me ahead of him and shut the door behind us, locking it.
“Drew,” Sara banged on the other side of the door. “Let her out.”
“Leave us the fuck alone, Sara,” Drew yeled back, agitated. I scanned
the large white bathroom, looking for another way out. Drew turned
and leaned his back against the door, ignoring Sara’s banging.
“What do you want Drew?” I confronted cooly, despite the tremors
that were overtaking me.
“Just wanted to talk to you,” he jumbled, taking a step toward me. I
backed away from him, dragging my feet along the tile.
“Go ahead, talk.”
“Don’t be like that.” He reached for me, trying to take my hand. I
puled it out of reach. The music stopped abruptly while more voices
banged on the door, yeling for Drew to open it. It didn’t seem to faze
him as he slowly approached me. I ran out of tiles beneath my feet, my
back bumping into the wal.
“I just wanted you to know that I forgive you.” He dragged his hand
along my cheek, snagging a few strands of hair with it. A cloud of
liquor floated from his parted lips as he continued, “You don’t have to
be with him just to get back at me.”
I was confused by his words and tried to look him in the eye. Except he
couldn’t focus on anything - his eyes twitched in a drunken dance.
“I’l take you back,” he muttered, leaning down toward me. I turned my
head - his wet mouth press against my cheek. The weight of his body
pressed against me as he trailed his tongue along my neck. I pushed
against him, but I was his wal now, holding him up. He held me to
him, ignorant of my squirming. He groped my breast while grinding
“Drew, stop!” I yeled, pushing him back with al I could. He held tighter,
aggressively pawing at me like we were in some impassioned
There was a crash of splintering wood as the door burst open. Drew
was puled from me, and al I could see were faces, staring. There were a
group of guys struggling to get in. I thought I saw a glimpse of Evan in
the twist of arms and hands before Sara grabbed my arm, and we
rushed through the gawking mob.
Scuffling could be heard behind us with girls screaming and guys
swearing. I tried to look over my shoulder before we were out the front
door. I could only see bodies pushing in a frantic wave, some to get
away, while others were trying to move closer. Not long after we
reached the car, Evan caught up with us. He was breathing heavily and
his shirt was crumpled. He puled me toward him and held me. I tried
not to reveal how shaken up I was, but the tears slid down my cheeks
I swiped them away before I puled back from him. I looked up at his
face. It was stil flushed. Sara was standing to the side, quietly
watching. “I’m okay,” I assured him. “He was just realy drunk. He
didn’t mean it.”
“Don’t,” Evan stopped me. “Don’t make excuses for him. I can’t…”
He took a calming breath.
“Let’s just go,” he urged.
People were stil staring at us from the front steps when we got into the
car. The party inside resumed, with the music turned up again and the
volume of voices steadily increasing. Evan took my hand in silence as
we drove away.