Chapter 5: Because Being The Fourth Wheel Is So Much Better

"Where did you go?" Is the first thing that Michelle asks me when we regroup after I manage to leave Micah's room unnoticed. "And why is your face so red?" she continues, pulling her eyebrows together almost like she's about to frown and it's like something snaps inside me and my trance is broken. I'm catapulted into the present moment where I don't have the vaguest of ideas how I've managed to go downstairs. Did I randomly teleport or something?

"Did you even read my text?" I sort of snap at Michelle and when I see the look that crosses her face, I immediately feel bad for taking my frustrations out on her, but my head's still reeling from the recent concurrence of events, so my guilty conscience doesn't last for long.

"Geez," Michelle replies, the corners of her lips tugging downwards, "hold your horses, G. I was busy dealing with your unconscious sister to read your texts," she says, rolling her brown eyes at me, but at the mention of my sister I suddenly perk up and forget all about the latest happenings.

"You found Molly?" A small gasp escapes me as I gape at Michelle, thinking to myself that I should've been there, too – with her, with them and not hiding in some boy's closet. Sometimes I wonder where my mind is. I really do. "Where?"

"Passed out on the front lawn," Michelle says nonchalantly, starting to walk towards the front of the house and I follow her blindly. I feel like even more people have come to this party ever since we showed up, or maybe I just need a gulp of fresh air. Secondhand smoke isn't a friend of mine. When I think about what Michelle just said to me, I'm more confused than worried about the wellbeing of my sister.

"Passed out?" I repeat, my eyes going wide as Michelle curtly nods her head at me, like she knows exactly how I'm feeling. "Is she alright?" I hurriedly ask after I realize that this doesn't sound good. People don't randomly pass out for no reason. Unless, of course, they're epileptic, but even then there's a reason why they'd pass out. As far as I know, Molly is not an epileptic. Unless she's become one overnight.

"Yes, she's fine, or at least she will be," Michelle is quick to respond, sensing my growing anxiety and knowing that two passed out girls are way more than she can handle at the moment. Not to mention that I must be twice her size, so carrying me is going to be one hell of a challenge. "She's just had too much to drink and is now suffering the consequences, or actually we are because she's totally unresponsive and can't move," Michelle explains, waving her hand at me and she's saying all this to me so casually like it's no biggie, like I shouldn't worry, but I think it's too late for that.

"She's drunk?" I shriek, my voice rising in volume, but I don't know why I'm surprised. Hasn't tonight been a night to remember, one full of surprises and such?

"Drunk off her ass is more like it," Michelle clarifies and even though she might've dealt with her fair share of drunken heads in the past, I still gag when I drink beer and the thought of my little sister drinking until she passes out is giving me the hives. "I found her sprawled on the lawn, totally out of it. I literally had to drag her to my car. God, I think my hands are still shaking," Michelle says, putting her hands in front of her face and carefully scrutinizing them, trying to see if they're shaky or not. To me, it doesn't look like it because her hands look perfectly unshaking to me, but then again, my vision is a little bit hazy, so I won't know.

Thankfully, by this point we're already standing outside and I breathe in the fresh night air until I feel like my lungs about to burst. I don't even risk a furtive glance back at the house as we power-walk to Michelle's red Volkswagen beetle convertible.

"She's been there, passed out on the lawn, the whole time we were looking for her and we didn't even see her when we came?" Shocked, I can't help myself but think that it would be just my luck that I'd walk right past my sister, that she's been outside, lying on the ground like a sack of potatoes while I was inside, making shocking discoveries and finding out all sorts of things about my classmates and yet not finding the one thing I've come looking for. The irony of it all is a little bit too hard to miss. Impossible, even.

"Yeah, I think so," Michelle says, but doesn't appear nearly as surprised as me. "Funny, isn't it?" Michelle suddenly asks, sending me a smile.

I scoff in response, thinking that funny is one way to put it. Personally, I'd go with un-fucking-believable, but sure, funny works, too.

We reach Michelle's car and I see Molly sleeping in the backseat. Hearing that she's safe and sound is one thing, but seeing it with my very eyes is another. I sigh in relief as I clumsily get in, still shaken up by everything that happened tonight, and then Michelle starts the car and we're off. Molly doesn't stir, doesn't even make a sound, so I turn around in my seat to make sure that she's still breathing. I feel a little bit better when I see her chest raise and fall, but suddenly a thought occurs to me and I turn back around to face Michelle who's looking at the road like her usual calm and collected self.

"Did you move her all by yourself?" I ask, fully aware that even though Molly's so thin that she practically looks like a twig that's threatening to snap in two, she's not as light as a feather and moving her body would require some upper body strength. Michelle, on the other hand, is just as twiggy herself.

"There weren't many volunteers who wanted to help me," she says in a jesting voice and I start to wonder how she can be even joking about this, but then she loses the smile. "Well, there were, in fact, a few volunteers, but you saw it for yourself, most of the people at the party weren't quite capable of taking care of themselves, much less anybody else."

I nod in agreement before checking up on Molly again.

I've heard stories about the amazing, "off-the-chain" parties that Micah throws, but now that I've been there myself, I know that the stories don't really do the real thing any justice. Everything that goes on at these parties is way out of my comfort zone. I don't think that trashing someone's house is necessary for anyone to have fun. But really, it's not my classmates' animal behavior that surprises me because I should've known better what to expect. It's Micah himself that's got me confused.

"And her boyfriend?" I ask, shaking myself out of it because I don't want to be thinking of anybody else but Molly right now. "Did you see Travis anywhere?"

"Nope, she was alone when I found her," Michelle responds, not even having to think this over. I sigh agitatedly, realizing that it's just in Travis' style to leave my sister to fend for herself when his intervention is needed. Leave it to him to drag her to a party and then disappear without a trace. Ever since he and Molly started going out, she started changing. And she changed for him. Molly's always been obsessed with the popular crowd. Getting into a relationship with the school's bad boy was her ticket to everything she's always wanted and dreamed of. Norah has to be blamed, too. She raised us to believe that if one isn't worshipped and adored and talked about, then his life isn't worth a penny. Sometimes I feel like it always comes down to Norah and all the poor parental decisions she's made throughout the years. It's still a mystery to me how I managed to do it on my own, but somehow I realized that there's more to life than beauty pageants and popularity contests, that I don't need everybody to like me, I just need a few people I can tell everything to and it will be enough. More than enough for me to be if not happy, then content and that's more than what I can say for Molly who's always looking for love and acceptance in people that aren't going to give it to her. With Travis on the top of the list.

"I'm sorry that I wasn't there to help you and I'm sorry for snapping at you earlier," I say regretfully, knowing that I'm the one who has to be looking after Molly, that she's my responsibility and not Michelle's.

"It's okay." Michelle shrugs and when she turns to me, I can see it in her eyes that all's forgiven. It's not like Michelle to hold a grudge. "Where were you, anyways?" she asks next, eyes alight with curiosity before she refocuses her attention on the road.

I consider spilling the whole story to Michelle, but then I realize that I'm relieved she hasn't checked her messages and doesn't know that I found myself in the middle of a lover's quarrel. "It's nothing," I reply quickly, thanking god that I'm not Pinocchio and that my nose doesn't grow when I tell a lie because I seriously fail at lying in general, "I just got…help up," I finish, thinking that the less Michelle knows, the better. Maybe over time I might even be able to forget this night. Pretending it didn't happen is definitely the next best thing, though.

Unlike Gwen, who's meddlesome and nosy as hell when she sets her mind on it, Michelle doesn't push people. She merely gives me a curious look that I pointedly ignore, but despite her obvious curiosity, she doesn't press on, figuring that I will talk about it when I'm ready. I don't think I'll ever be ready to have this talk with her, or anybody else, but still.

"Need any help sneaking her back in?" Michelle asks when we park outside my house.

"No, I'll manage," I assure her before we get out of the car and go to pull the still unconscious Molly from out of the backseat.

"Are you sure she's going to be alright?" I ask Michelle as I wrap one arm around Molly's tiny waist and caught a whiff of her breath that stinks of alcohol and god-knows-what-else. She still doesn't look like she'll able to walk on her own, but she kind of opens her eyes and blinks up at me before she leans her head on my shoulder and promptly falls asleep again.

"She's going to live if that's what you mean," Michelle says with a smile and I openly roll my eyes at her, thinking that this is no time to be cracking such lame jokes.

"Call me tomorrow to tell me how it goes, okay?" she asks, already beginning to walk backwards towards her car.

"I will," I tell her and once Michelle's sure we're going to be alright, she climbs in her car and drives off.

Realizing that I'm home at last and nothing bad is going to happen now, I allow myself to relax, but when I go inside, I find that I'm in for another surprise.

Norah's up and for once sober.

"What the hell happened?" she demands to know when she notices the state Molly is in and rushes over to my side, taking her from my arms. Of course the one time I need Norah to make herself absent and preferably drunker than her youngest daughter, she's sober and has her bitch mode activated.

"I-,'" I try to explain, I want to explain to Norah that this, Molly getting so drunk that she doesn't know where she is, has got nothing to do with me and that it probably has everything to do with that good-for-nothing boyfriend Molly has and who Norah adores, but of course she doesn't listen. Norah never does.

"For Pete's sake, Georgiana, what did you do?" she asks angrily and I'm left wondering how the hell is any of this my fault? Where's my fault in trying to be a better sister and jumping through hoops of fire to find Molly and bring her home? Well, I might be exaggerating a little, but it doesn't change the facts.

Norah doesn't stick around to hear my story. I don't think she wants to, either. Norah's allergic to the truth and she won't like it if I tell her that if someone's to blame, that's her. God knows I've tried to talk to her, but there's no getting through to her.

She carries Molly to the living room and lays her body down the couch before facing me with her hands on her hips. I think I see Molly's eyes flutter open, but when I look closer, they're closed again. Naturally, Molly will wake up and go back to sleep now that Norah's onto us, leaving me to deal with the consequences of her actions.

"Just leave," Norah sneers after she looks me up and down, probably thinking that I'm not even important enough to fight with, "go to your room. I think you've done enough already."

And I have. I really have done more for Molly in one night than Norah for all the years she's been "raising" us. It might not be much, but I at least showed up when she said she needed me.

I want to get mad, I want to get angry at Norah for writing me off so easily, for being so harsh and judgmental and unforgiving, but I can't. I curb my tongue and my emotions before I turn on my heel and have every intention of doing as she said before her words stop me mid-step.

"What I don't understand though is why you never get anything right," she says pensively just as I'm about to leave the room and for a millisecond I think that I detect a hint of sadness in her voice, but that's Norah and my mom never gets sad. Angry, yes, but sad? Never.

Like mother, like daughter, is what I'm itching to tell her just so I can see the look on her face, but I don't do that because I don't want to compare myself to her and it's not worth it to stoop to her level just so I can hurt her. I'm not her, and I never will be. Once this thought made me want to cry, but now it only brings me comfort.

I never met my father. To me, he's more of a fictional character than a real human being. Furthermore, I don't even know what he looks like. Is Norah right when she says that I'm just like him, or is she simply afraid that the two of us are more alike than she'd like? I don't know if that's her way of rejecting me and refusing to acknowledge me as her daughter, or if she's just bitter because she sees so much of my father in me.

I realize that being fatherless shouldn't make me feel any less complete, but a part of me has always wondered and keeps wondering about him, about how different things would be if he were here with me, defending me against Norah's nasty jabs. I both want to know him and I don't because he walked out on us, because he's the one who didn't want to get to know me, because he chose freedom over his own damn family. At least that's what Norah keeps telling me, but I know better than to take her word for granted. She doesn't talk much about my father, though, and when she does, she's usually too drunk to realize that she is. No matter how wasted she is, however, she would never mention his name, or tell me how the two of them met. All I know is that according to her, he let her down when she needed him the most and that he's ruined her life. Their short-lived affair resulted in my birth, though, which – if my mother's to be trusted – is the worst thing to have ever happened to her. She was young and stupid, she'd say to me, slurring her words and shaking her index finger in my face whereas my father was a seasoned player who knew how to manipulate a girl into sharing their bed with him.

Even though Norah makes him sound like some awful man who doesn't deserve an iota of my time, I still look for my father in every man I meet, wondering if I've been searching for him my whole life, sometimes without me even knowing it. On the streets, in the café, in the supermarket, I scrutinize every middle-aged man I see, trying to decide if I have his chin, his nose, his eyes, his built… as far as I know, every man out there has the potential to be my father unless I'm proven wrong, which is what usually happens and I end up disappointed once more.

"People watching again?" Gwen asks conversationally, getting in the seat across from me and sliding a cup of steaming hot coffee in my direction. I gratefully accept my drink and take a small sip.

"No, just thinking," I respond, shaking my head and dragging my eyes away from the man sitting at the table on our left whose dark brown eyes reminded me of my own for a moment. Gwen doesn't know about this game I play with myself and I don't tell her anything because I don't think she'll understand. Or worse, she will and she'll pity me for it, for being so desperate when I'm supposed to be and stay strong. This is something I've never told anyone because it's too private and I'd rather keep it to myself. If people don't know the truth about how it's driving me nuts that I've never had a father to welcome back home after a tiring day at work, then they won't use it against me. No man defines me, even if that man is actually my father.

"So," Gwen clicks her tongue before taking a careful sip from her coffee, afraid that it'll burn her tongue, "what happened last night? Can't be anything good because you honestly look like hell right now," she flippantly mentions, referring to my less than perfect appearance. I self-consciously look down at my crumpled clothes, fully aware that Gwen is in her right to be frightened by my appearance. I barely slept a wink last night after my fight with Norah and I couldn't wait to get out of the house in the morning, hoping that eventually I'll cool off and she'll forget last night. I know I shouldn't take Norah's words to her heart and yet I can't help myself but be fascinated with the way she always thinks the worst of me, like my mere existence rubs her off the wrong way, which it actually does.

"Gee, Gwen, I greatly appreciate your kindness," I say sarcastically, but I'm not really peeved at Gwen for being so blunt with me. I can't blame her for being forthcoming just like I can't blame the sky for being blue. Her bluntness is not really something she can control and I need consistency right now and I can always trust Gwen to be sincere with me.

"I'm just sayin'," Gwen says, shrugging one shoulder and giving me an innocent look.

"Nothing interesting happened," I say, which might be the biggest lie of the century, or at least one of them. "Just… can I stay at your house for the next couple of days?" I ask, hoping that Gwen will say yes and let me crash at her place until things blow over and I feel like I can look at Norah's face again without getting the urge to turn away. I can always turn to Michelle for help because I know that her family will gladly take me in, but Aunt Deb's bound to ask too many questions and I don't want her to get into another fight with Norah all because of me. Besides that, Gwen's parents are almost always out of town for business and she generally doesn't mind the company.

"Sure," Gwen slowly says, giving me a skeptical look and trying to see right through me, but I have my guard up today. "Want to talk about it?" she asks carefully, but the look on her face tells me that she's asking out of courtesy than anything less. Gwen's strong-willed and sharp-tongued, but she's no good at comforting people in need. She's better at beating them up, really.

"No, I just need some time away from Norah, but thanks anyways," I reply easily and apparently satisfied with my response, Gwen nods at me in understanding before she sips from her coffee again and I too wrap my shaky hands around my mug, thankful for the silence that follows.

"Shit," Gwen suddenly curses, almost dropping her cup before she sets it down on the table and lowers herself in her seat to avoid being seen until I can barely see the top of her black head, "Grant's here," she says in a frantic whisper and she stops me when I start to turn around and follow her panicked gaze, "don't look," she tells me and I freeze, looking back at her curiously, like she's just lost her shit (no pun intended), which she might as well have, "he's coming this way. Don't tell him I'm here," she warns me before she hides under the table. I don't have much time to dwell on the idiocy of it all because when I look up, I see some boy standing by our table and gazing down at me uncomfortably. I know I've seen him around before, mostly with Gwen, but I've never cared enough to find out more about him, but he must be the boy that Gwen pretends to like just so she can make Todd jealous, a plan that obviously backfired when Todd tried to set them up.

"Hey, Georgiana," he greets me a little bit awkwardly and gives me a tight-lipped smile that looks just as stiff as it feels, I'm sure. I'm surprised that he even knows my name, so it takes me a while to realize that he's actually addressing me. Well, it actually takes a kick in my shin, a courtesy of Gwen, for me to realize that he's talking to me.

"Hey… Grant," I wave back awkwardly just like a moron, willing him to move on, but he doesn't. Grant stays put instead and doesn't look away even when I raise my eyebrows at him questioningly.

"Is Gwen here because I thought I saw her with you before I came in-"

"Nope, sorry, no Gwen. I'm here all by myself, drinking my coffee. Alone," I say through clenched teeth after Gwen kicks me under the table again, propelling me to lie to Grant. I do feel bad about lying to his face, but I'd feel worse after Gwen's finished with me if I didn't lie to him just now. My eyes flick towards Gwen's half-drunk cup of coffee and when Grant follows my gaze, his face falls a little, but he still stands tall.

"Yes, right," he replies, clearing his throat and running a hand through his black curly hair before glancing back at me. A part of me wonders if he can see Gwen's feet peeking out from underneath the table, or if he's just keeping up pretenses because he doesn't want to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room. "In that case, can you please tell her to call me when you see her? We're supposed to go out tonight, but she's not picking up her phone. I just want to ask her if everything's okay and when she wants me to pick her up," Grant tells me, but I know that he's not really talking to me. Gwen's already getting restless, fidgeting under the table and the longer Grant stays here, the more I fear he's going to expose her because really, there's only a certain amount of humiliation a guy can take before he snaps, right?

"Sure, Grant, no problem," I readily reply, smiling tightly at him. "I will."

"Thanks, Georgiana," he says, shifting his weight from one foot to the other and even though now is the right time for him to leave, I see him hesitate, like he wants to say something else, but holds himself back. "Well, I guess I'll see you around. Bye," he says to both me and Gwen who still hasn't moved from her position.

"Bye," I say, hoping that he bought my story, but figuring that he probably didn't as I watch him walk away.

"He's gone," I whisper to Gwen, "you can come out of hiding now."

With an exaggerated groan, Gwen crawls out from underneath the table and settles back into her chair. Her face's burning, but I can't tell whether it's because of the exertion or because of what she did, because of what she made me do.

"Why didn't you tell me you have a date tonight?" I ask, surprised that she'd keep this from me for so long. I knew that Todd tried to play matchmaker and convince Gwen to go on a date with Grant, but I had no idea he's succeeded in his mission. I thought she said no.

Groaning out loud, Gwen rolls her head back before she looks at me in agony. "Because I'm not going," she says, like this is not even open for discussion.

"Why not?" I ask, bewildered as to why she'd turn down a date with someone like Grant who looks perfectly nice and even cute. In my experience, you don't meet guys like that every day. "Grant seemed pretty eager to take you out tonight," I add, hoping that there's still time for Gwen to come to her senses and give the guy a chance.

"Don't tell me you're still waiting for Todd to ask you out," I all but moan in despair, wondering when Gwen's going to realize that Todd doesn't see her that way, that he's the last guy she'd be wasting her time on. "You know you'll have a better chance marrying a prince. You know Prince Harry is still up for grabs," I joke.

"Thanks for the pep-talk, Georgia," Gwen quips, lifting her cup and taking another drink from her now cold coffee.

"Come on, Gwen, you know I don't mean it like that," I apologize, hoping that I haven't somehow insulted her because right now I don't need to be on Gwen's bad side. It's like being put in the corner. Besides, it's not my fault that I don't know how to be funny since my jokes always come out the wrong way.

"Fine, I'll go," she says frustratedly, rolling her eyes at me and yet I can't help the smile that blooms across my face because I'm proud of my friend for moving on, "but on one condition," she adds before I can get too excited about the prospect of her outgrowing her pointless, silly crush on Todd.

"Spill," I urge her on, thinking that whatever she asks of me, it most likely can't be that bad.

"I want you to come with," she tells me and I have to pick my jaw off the floor after I hear her out.

"You want me to be your third wheel?" I ask, horrified, because that's the worst possible scenario I can think of at the moment. Nothing worse than tagging along on your best friend's first date. There's no faster way to ruin the mood, really. If Gwen's goal is to make Grant flee from us at the end of the night, she's definitely on the right track.

"Of course not," she waves me off and rolls her nearly black eyes at me, like I'm a blundering idiot for not getting it the first time, "you'll take Todd with you to keep you company," she says in this offhanded manner of hers that's always amazed me, but now only makes me want to bang her head against the table because that's the worst plan I've ever heard in my life, which hasn't been that long, but still.

"Of course,'' I scoff, thinking to myself that I should've seen this coming a mile off. Gwen's great at thinking of ways to torture both me and Todd. Usually not even physically. "So I'm going to be your forth wheel then, which is so much better."

"I think that definitely defeats the purpose of going on a date with another guy when your crush's right there with you," I deadpan, wondering where Gwen gets her crazy ideas from. I sometimes wonder what goes through her head.

"Honestly, what's the worst that could happen?"

Wrong question.

A/N: Hey, stranger:) So, this chapter is dedicated to my friend Katie, who's simply one of the loveliest girls you'll ever meet and whose birthday was a couple of days ago. Happy birthday again, honeybee!

Now, I know that you don't know this (whoa, that was a mouthful), but I'll possibly be moving to another country in a few weeks. On another continent, actually. Either way, I'll be away for the entire summer and fall, traveling and having fun. I'm not giving up on fictionpress, but I just wanted to give you heads up. Funnily enough, I know where I'm going with this story, but I have no idea where I'm going with my life, so yeah, I'm basically clueless - I have no clue what's gonna happen in the next few months and when I'll update next. I'd hate to leave you hanging, wondering what's happened to me, that's why I'm telling you all this. But enough about that, what did you think of this chapter? Liked it? Didn't like it? Naturally, reviews are always welcome. =)