Savannah Peterson's eighteenth birthday party was the highlight of the end of the summer following senior year. Anybody who was anybody knew about it, and had received a sterling invitation. As Savannah's best friend, I traveled by her side, proud to be the beta of the popular pack. My twin was Riley. She always trailed along as part of Savannah's posse, but she never seemed happy about it. What I always wonder is, what's not to be happy about when you can hang out with Savannah Peterson, most fabulous, glamorous, popular person since kindergarten?
When I received my own sterling invite - not that is was a surprise or anything - I was ecstatic and immediately dragged Riley away to go dress shopping. Riley had never cared for dressing up, but then, I guess that was expected, as I was always the girly one in the family. I tried on dresses for hours, long dresses, short dresses, plain ones, flashy ones, and finally decided on a cocktail that hugged my thighs and ended above the knee. The neckline was low and ruffled, and a bit daring for me,the shiny black belt finishing it off. Pair it with some strappy heels and pull back my shoulder-length chestnut hair and - voilà! Fabulous! Almost as fabulous as Savannah. My face flushed at the thought.
Riley wanted to wear jeans and a t-shirt but after I begged her relentlessly for half an hour, she finally slipped into a royal purple, floor-length satin strapless. Afterward she let me pretty her up for the first time ever, straightening her long wavy hair and pulling one side back with a lacy black flower hairpiece.
Mom and Dad took a billion pictures like Prom night all over again - probably because they rarely see Riley care about her appearance - then sent us on our way. I drove, Riley taking over the passenger seat, fidgeting and staring out the side window.
"Try to socialize a bit tonight, Riley. A lot more people would like you if you wouldn't give them the cold shoulder all the time."
Riley glared at me. "I don't even want to go to this stupid party, Rachelle. I hate Savannah, and her friends" - she made air quotations - "are all snobby and rude. Why would I want to talk to anyone at this party? Besides, even if I wanted to talk to people there, they all hate me." She faced the window once again.
I rolled my eyes. Riley was always being overdramatic.
We arrived at the party, which was being held at the edge of Shifts in Demand, Savannah's father's company, in a warehouse that had not been used in a couple of years.
Music drifted out to us before we even got inside. Mr. Peterson had paid for the space to be cleared up, cleaned out, and decorated. Lights were wired along the walls in all colors, blinking and swirling along the walls and floor. The main light source was dimmed, giving the entire area the sense of the dance floor in a club.
I turned to see Savannah squeal and rush to me, both hugging each other tightly.
"Happy birthday, girl! You made it! Eighteen!" We laughed.
Savannah beamed. "Everyone's here. The football team - minus Jace and his friends, of course - the soccer, baseball and basketball teams." She laughed again. "Best birthday, like, ever! Oh, like my party look?" She twirled. Her usually bone-straight white-blonde hair was curled delicately, part of it pulled up. She'd put a hot pink streak in it that framed her perfectly pale face. She wore a hot pink and white dress with many layers that would have looked hideous if anyone else wore it but she somehow pulled it off.
Just then, her smile faltered. "Oh, Rache! You didn't invite them did you? I told you not to!"
I looked to where she was pointing. Jace Matthews, Captain of the team and the hottest guy in school and Savannah's ex, came strolling into the warehouse double doors flanked by two other players, his best friends, Colby Helton and Nathan Long. On his arm was a skimpy brunette wearing a sleek black dress with a plunging neckline. I could see the anger and hurt burning dimly in her eyes as Savannah stared at the brunette, Ella Jackson, I think, a year behind us.
After a few moments, they merged with the crowd and disappeared from view. Savannah turned her bright eyes toward me.
"I didn't invite them!" I protested. "I would never do that to you."
For a moment, it didn't seem like Savannah was going to believe me, but then she smiled. "I know. You're the best friend ever, Rache." She hugged me.
"Happy birthday, Savannah." Riley finally joined us. Savannah smiled even more brightly.
"Aw, thanks, Riley. You're so sweet."
I noticed the smirk playing at the corners of her mouth and that guarded look creeping in her eyes and I silently willed her not to say or do anything snarky. Before I could see how it played out, Jack O'Connor from the soccer team came up behind me, pulling me out into the center of he dance floor. "Shake it for me bay-bee!" He crowed, then began to dance wildly. I, was disgusted to say the least. I looked around for help, but I could no longer see Riley or Savannah, and it was obvious no Prince Charming was going to come to my rescue, so I turned on my heel, hoping to shift into the crowd unnoticed. O'Connor caught me though, locked his arms around my waist, pulling me back. His mouth came close to my ear as he whispered, " Sly little vixen, you can't escape from the jackalope, you know." His hand began to trail downward to the hem of my dress.
The back of my hand found his face. Hard.
"Stupid pervert," I muttered and tossed my hair back out of my face, walking away with what was left of my dignity.
It took me a while but I finally found Savannah. "Where's Riley?" I asked, not seeing my sister anywhere. Savannah's bright smile dipped slightly, just so that I barely caught it. "Oh, Riley? She went home." She rolled her eyes. "She didn't belong here. You could just tell she wasn't enjoying it. I had to put the poor girl out of her misery!" Savannah made her signature pouty face. "I told her she didn't have to stay if she didn't want to. So she took off." She lifted one dainty shoulder.
"But - I drove us here." I produced the champagne-colored Volvo's keys from my little black purse.
Savannah stared at them for a moment. "Oh. Well, she, um. She called a friend, I think. So, no big deal." She looped her arm through mine. "Ever drank whiskey?"
I just stared at her. She huffed. "Fine, beer it is." She pulled me over to the bar and handed me a red Solo cup. I sipped at the froth sitting on top. I knew my parents would kill me if they knew I'd even tried alcohol. It tasted bitter at first, but then it was kind of warm as it trickled down my throat, and that sensation lead me to desire more of it.
"Let's dance!" Savannah said and pulled me along behind her onto the dance floor, raising our cups as if in a victory toast.