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MILA

I roll over, hugging my body pillow tightly, and snuggle under my covers. I love this part of the morning- right when you first wake up, and you know you dont have to go anywhere, do anything, see anyone, all day. Its the perfect lazy summer day, one of my last free ones before soccer starts, and its especially good timing since Ill be spending today in front of the TV nursing a hangover. I open my eyes and stare at the ceiling as I let the events of last night play back through my head. I was at my friend Kristins house with my other close friend, Monica, and my best friend, Nicole. Were a pretty tight-knit group, the four of us. Nicole, Monica, and I have known each other since middle school (Nicole and Monica even go back to kindergarten) and weve been close with Kristin since freshman year. Three whole years with the same three girls- thats an accomplishment in high school, a place where friendships form and dissolve so quickly it hurts my head just trying to keep track of it all. Last night the boys were there, too: Taylor, Jeff, Ken, and Ryan. Taylors a senior like us, but he transferred out of our school after sophomore year. Ken graduated last year; hes Monicas boyfriend. Jeff and Ryan are in our grade at Riverwood High. I guess you could call Ryan my boyfriend, or the closest thing Id ever get to a real boyfriend. Im not really a commitment person and Ryan isnt either- he went through a painful breakup two years ago and has shunned relationships ever since. Yesterday was pretty typical: we all drank, the boys smoked, and everyone crashed in Monicas basement. Ryan and I hooked up for a while, but nothing serious; I wasnt in the best of moods and was more interested in watching reruns than hooking up with him (Ill be the first to admit hes not the best of kissers). I relax into my pillow. No drama, nothing major with Ryan- thats the way I like it. A pretty good night overall. Suddenly my bedroom door flies open and a small blonde person catapults herself onto my bed, giggling crazily. Nicole? I ask, grumpy. Why are you here?

Nicole sits up and gives me a look. Her long blonde hair is in a messy bun on the top of her head, shes wearing exactly no makeup, and has a baggy t-shirt and stained sweatpants on. Im not the sentimental type, but its nice that we can look like absolute crap in front of each other and be completely comfortable with it. You said youd help me practice soccer today, remember? she reminds me. Tryouts start the first day of school. And thats on Monday! I check my bedside clock. Wow, its already 2:00. You slept off yesterday that quickly? Nicole shrugs. I didnt have that much. I didnt want to get completely drunk two nights in a row. Two nights in a row? I repeat. Im confused. We dont have anything planned for tonight. Nothing that I can remember, at any rate. Nicole bobs impatiently. Tonight were going to Monicas, remember? I know we just did it last night, but its the last night of summer. We cant waste it. In that case, leave. I flop back down on my pillow. Im going to need six more hours of sleep just to make it to midnight tonight. No, Nicole whines. You said youd help me practice! And Im babysitting tomorrow! Just a little? Please? Fine! I relent, annoyed. Nicole hops off the bed and examines my bulletin board of pictures as I pad into my bathroom to brush my teeth and wash off last nights makeup. So, whats going on with you and Ryan, anyway? Nicoles voice floats through the open doorway as I study my reflection. Dark brown hair, tangled and dirty. Pale skin, flushed and uneven. Big blue eyes, coated in smudged makeup. Yup- mornings are definitely not my most attractive moments. What do you mean? I splash water on my face and check the mirror. Moderately better. We hook up and talk a lot, but its nothing serious. Nothing serious? Nicole probes. So you dont like him? I consider. I mean, I do like him. More than any other guy, actually. But Im still not a relationship kind of girl. And I dont think hed really be into that, either.

Nicole comes into the bathroom and stands behind me. Yeah, he doesnt really date. I like what we have, though, I decide, turning to face her. Me and Ryan. Its good. It works for us. Its like an unofficial commitment, you know? We wouldnt hook up with anyone else, but we dont have to officially announce ourselves as a couple. Its casual. That sounds good for both of you, Nicole offers, shifting her weight to her right foot and jutting out her hip. Yeah, I guess. I trade my sweatpants and sweatshirt for a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Its too early in the morning for deep talks. Even if it is the afternoon. Ready to learn how to bicycle kick? Nicole follows me down the stairs, bobbing eagerly. You know it.

BLAKE THE SAME AFTERNOON I pull into my best friend Brees long driveway and park the car behind her Mercedes. Brees one of my two best friends and I havent seen her in over a month, so this reunion is long overdue. I glance in the rearview mirror to check my reflection before heading inside. My blonde hair is still straightened from the night before (I went to the movies with my semi-boyfriend, Calvin, who coincidentally is Brees cousin, a coincidence that Bree hates) and my blue eyes are framed with thick lashes. I smile excitedly at my reflection before grabbing my bag and running up Brees steps. She throws open the door before I can get to the bell. Blake! Bree! I hug her tightly and she almost lifts me off the ground. I hold her at arms length for a second and give her a quick once-over: shes gorgeous as always. Long brown hair held back by a black headband, a face that looks beautiful even first thing in the morning, and a thin, tall body identical to mine. Shes wearing a tank and jean shorts with a bikini on underneath. How was Europe? she asks, pulling me inside. Tell me everything! You said yesterday you had something big to tell me, but you wanted to do it in person. I raise my eyebrows suggestively but duck into her downstairs bathroom to change. Hold on! I call through the door. Ill tell you in a sec. I change into my blue bikini in record time and sprint out to the pool, where Bree is already waiting. Bree turns on her stereo system and I snag one of her pool toys and float lazily in the middle of the aqua water. Bree drags a similar raft into the water and slides on, joining me in the pool. Your parents arent around? I ask cautiously before beginning my story.

Bree shakes her head. Nope. They wont be back until tonight. We could make margaritas! she suggests, her eyes lighting up. Thats something we used to do all the time this summer until I left. I clap my hands. Lets do it! In less than ten minutes were back outside, lying in pool chaises sunning ourselves and sipping from our custom B&Bs. Thats what we named the delicious margarita we came up with after countless disgusting attempts. Only Bree knows the exact amounts of the ingredients, but I do know is that we use vodka, strawberries, oranges, lime, and ice. I slip my oversized sunglasses onto my nose and sigh in contentment. This is what I love about being friends with Bree. Im not going to liesometimes shes not the best of friends. Like when she talks about me behind my back to our joint friends, the twins Jessica & Julie. Or when I took her to California with me one spring break and she spent the whole time texting either J&J or her boyfriend complaining about me. Or the time she ditched me to hang out with this guy. You get the point. But there are good parts, too. Brees not the smartest, but shes sweet and most of the (considerable) trouble she causes is just her not thinking about the consequences of her actions. Shes pretty popular, especially with the guys, and her familys loaded, so shes got a pool, hot tub, trampoline, and a boat. Im not saying thats why Im friends with her. Its more because we go way back- weve been inseparable since September of freshman year. Theres a lot of history, which is why Ive decided to trust her with this secret. Okay, spill. Bree wiggles excitedly. You said it was something big. I nod. It is. You have to promise not to tell anyone. Especially not the twins. Theyd be mad. Mad? Bree wrinkles her forehead. Is it a guy thing? J&J are kind of prude- Jessicas had the same goody-two-shoes boyfriend for over a year, and Julie has about as much experience as my dog. I love them, but sometimes its hard talking to them about guy stuff because Jessica doesnt have a lot of experience either and Julie will judge. Thats why I talk to Bree about guys.

I nod. Do you promise? She pinky-swears and then I launch into my story. My parents took me and my younger brother to Germany for three weeks this summer, since thats where my dads family is from. It was amazing, but most amazing of all was Max, a nineteen-year-old German guy with light blonde hair and ice blue eyes. I met him one of the first nights we were in Berlin- every night I would sneak out of the hotel just to walk around the city. Im a big people-watcher. Anyway, Max came up to me and we started talking, and he convinced me to go to a bar with him and his friend- the drinking age in Germany is 16! Figuring it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, I agreed. Youre probably thinking of that movie Taken or other such scenarios right now- you know the drill: stupid American girl gets taken in by charming European guys who either sell her into the sex trade or dump her corpse at the bottom of the river. But my experience turned out to be just the oppositeexactly the kind of amazing that only comes around once in a lifetime. Max and I had this instant connection, and we met up every night for an entire week. We went to bars, hung out in parks, wandered around the citysometimes I didnt even get back to my hotel until 5:30 in the morning. The last night before I left, we went to his apartment and we went kind of far. Kind of far? Bree regards me suspiciously. Like, how far? Like, all the way, I admit, peeking sideways to gauge her reaction. Oh my god, Blake! Bree is too surprised to say anything else. I shrug happily. I dont regret it, though. Sometimes you have to take risks. And he was amazing. You slut, Bree giggles. Youre not a virgin anymore! You lost your virginity in Germany! Hell yeah! I raise my margarita to that, because it is kind of awesome. I mean, come on. How many girls can claim that? How many guys does this make now? Eighteen? Bree asks, a sly smile on her face. Shes referring to the running total we have of the guys Ive

hooked up with. Since Ive never been one for relationships, my 18 is way higher than Brees 7 or my other friend Carries 9. Shush. I flick some water at her. Its been an interesting summer, thats all. Brees phone beeps on the stonework next to her and she picks it up to read a message. She smiles and glances at me. My parents are coming home tomorrow. You know what that means. I whoop. Yes! The summer crew is back for one last night. Text everyone, Bree instructs. I should start idiot-proofing my house. Your house should already be idiot-proof, I remind her. You live here. She throws her towel at me. Shut up! Youre leaving now, right? She doesnt mean it in a bad way; she just knows Ill need to get stuff for tonight at my house. Yeah, I want to shower. Got to look good for Calvin, she teases. Then she shudders. Ew. Its so weird to think youre dating my cousin. Cousin by marriage, I correct, picking up my bag and slipping on my flip flops. And were not dating! I call over my shoulder as I cross the patio. Right, I hear Bree say in a bored tone behind me. Because you dont date, I know, I know. See you later, bitch! I yell, opening my trunk and tossing my crap inside. Later, slut, she shouts back. I cant help smiling to myself as I slide into the drivers seat of my car. Bree and I may have an interesting relationship, but Ive missed her. And Im so ready for a good time tonight.

MILA THAT EVENING

I lean close to the mirror, widening my blue eyes as I carefully apply a thin line of black eyeliner underneath. Kristins straightening her hair next to me and her arm brushes my elbow, making me draw a line down my cheek. Kristin! I snap, annoyed. I glance at the clock. Its already eight-forty. The boys will be here any minute and Im nowhere near to ready. Youre hogging the whole mirror, Kristin complains, trying to sidle behind me. I cant even see myself. I ignore this and quickly wash off the black line on my face. I add some mascara at a super-speedy pace and then dramatically step out of her way. Better? Barely, Kristin grumbles, claiming my prime spot front and center. Ah, this is what true friendship is life. Bickering like old married couples. I head to Monicas room, where my clothes are- Im still in my ratty t-shirt and shorts from soccer, although I did shower. Nicoles butt-naked, changing into tiny shorts and a low-cut tank top, but I dont even slow down. Weve seen each other naked more times than I can count. It doesnt even make an impact on me anymore. I sigh happily to myself. Ive been away in England for the past three weeks with Kristin, and I didnt realize how much I missed Monica and Nicole until we were all together again. Yo, whats up? Taylor bursts loudly into the room, throwing his back down in the middle of Monicas living room floor and crouching down to pet her dog. Hes so at home here. Behind him, Ken, Jeff, and Ryan troop in, reeking of smoke. Theyre probably all high already. Monica rushes up from her basement to greet them. I retract my head back into Monicas bedroom and shut the door, perfectly content to leave Monica to hostess duty while I change into something that doesnt make me look like a complete slob. Nicole finishes changing while Im still struggling with my bra. Do you want me to wait? Nah, I wave a hand, not looking up from the strap Im adjusting. Ill meet you downstairs. She disappears through the doorway and I can hear her shrill voice

singing out greetings to the boys. Kristin walks by the doorway on her way downstairs, her already stick-straight hair finally deemed good enough. I finally get the stupid bra on right and tug a tight white tank top on over it, trading my athletic shorts for jean cutoffs and quickly lacing up my Converse, just in case I want to go outside with the boys to smoke. I give myself a quick once-over in the mirror, fluff my brown hair once, and head downstairs. The partys already in full swing. Taylors opening a twenty-four pack of Budweiser cans while Ryan is pouring straight vodka into eight waiting shot glasses. Monica and Ken are wrestling playfully by the foosball table, Kristins rolling a joint, and Nicole and Jeff are in the middle of a heated arm wrestling contest with two drained shot glasses sitting nearby, clearly the result of previous rounds. I change the TV to a rerun of Jersey Shore and plop down on the couch next to Ryan- now everything is perfect. Hey, Mila, Ryan greets me by handing me a shot glass. Bottoms up. I tilt my head and drain the glass, wincing at the taste. I set my glass down on the table victoriously. Nice to see you, too. Why the rush in getting wasted? He shrugs. Hey, its the last night of summer. And that clearly turns into the motto of the night- everyones using it as an excuse to pull crazy shit theyd never do otherwise, no matter how drunk. Monica and Kristin, who normally are not big smokers, get super high and start cooking everything they can get their hands on. Nicoles knocking back shots like she is on Jersey Shore, Taylor calls up some of his public school friends and hangs with them in the backyard, Jeff and Ryan start a crazy game of beer pong, and Ken and Monica disappear to Monicas bedroom for a good hour or two. I check the clock; its about two-thirty. Im feeling pleasantly wasted, right nowthe sort of drunk where everything is just good and everyone is funnier and better in your eyes. Everyone, including three random kids who I think Taylor invited and except for Monica and Ken, is hanging out in the backyard, but Im inside to grab a beer. I dont really like beer, but Taylor always said drinking beer after liquor helps you hold your liquor down, so I grab one and pop it open.

Ill take that. An arm swoops in and snatches my beer. Ryan raises it to his lips and chugs half of it back before setting it down on a nearby table. And dont you think youve had enough? Im fine, I insist, laughing slightly as I stumble towards the couch. I just need to sit down for a second Ryan guides me to the couch and helps me down. I lean back and smile, content. I feel the couch sink slightly as he throws himself onto the cushion next to me. Suddenly, it hits me. Its me and Ryan, alone in a dark room on a couch, and weve both had a lot to drink He leans over and kisses me- intensely is the only way I can think to describe it, since its definitely not soft or romantic. I kiss back, slowly getting into it. He guides me onto his lap so Im straddling him and we make out for a while, his hands finding their way up my shirt and down my shorts. We hook up for a good twenty minutes or so before Im suddenly aware of an urgent need to pee. Hold on, I say, climbing off and throwing my hands out to catch my balance. Ill be right back. I go up the stairs to Monicas bathroom and take my time, washing my hands thoroughly and splashing my face. I inspect my reflection; I actually dont look too bad for three in the morning. I open the door and walk into Monicas living room. Monica and Ken are standing there, whispering intently. When they see me, they stop talking immediately. Hey, guys, I say cheerfully, giving Monica a big hug. Whats up? Monica throws Ken a meaningful, worried look. Ken, why dont you go outside. Talk to, um, Taylor. Ken glances at me with concern before heading outside. I notice he leaves through the front door instead of going down to the basement and going outside that way and briefly wonder why, but my drunken mind cant really concentrate on trivial things for long. Instead I turn to Monica. Monica, whats going on? She leads me over to the couch and sits me down, her eyes concerned. Mila, where have you been? The bathroom, I answer, confused. No, before that.

Oh. I shrug. I was downstairs with Ryan. Monica bites her lip. I can tell this wasnt the answer she wanted to hear. Milaafter you left to go to the bathroom, Nicole went in the basement. She searches my face for signs of understanding. With Ryan. I still dont get it. So what? Ken and I walked in on them. Monica adds, looking at me with pity. She puts a comforting hand on my back, but I still dont understand. You and Kenwalked in on them? I repeat. Then something falls into place. You mean they were hooking up? Monica nods. Im so stunned I cant even think straight. The room is spinning and my stomach has flipped upside down. Are they still down there? I manage to ask. Its been almost ten minutes. Yeah. She searches my face. Are you okay? I mean, you and Ryan arent dating, and Nicoles had a lot to drinkWhy dont we go outside? Hang out with the boys for a bit, okay? Monica guides me outside, an arm around my shoulders protectively. Im still too shocked to protest. Part of me wants to barge into the basement and confront them, but another part of me questions if I even have reason to be upset. Ryan and I arent dating, and we never said we were committed. And he was pretty drunk Nicole, on the other hand, is a completely different story. We just talked about Ryan this afternoon and I told her I had feelings for him. Even if Ryan just sees me as someone to hook up with, he wasnt just that to me. And Nicole having a lot to drink is total bullshit. I was just with her outside before I went into the basement with Ryan, and she was barely tipsy. Unless she took about twenty shots in twenty minutes, she was sober enough to know exactly what she was doing. I bite my lip. Was one hookup with Ryan reason enough to throw away six years of friendship? The next hour is agony. Unfortunately, it seems that the shock and betrayal Im feeling have completely sobered me up- at this point Id give anything to be in a state of drunken ignorance. I knock back three shots but even straight vodka doesnt do a thing.

Everyone else is sitting in a loose circle around the drinks and such, but Im leaning against the wall of the house, staring into space, still half in denial. In an appreciated show of solidarity, Kristin sits with me in silence. After what seems like forever, Ryan emerges from the basement, his hair mussed and his belt half-undone. We should probably go, he says to the other guys. I have work in the morning. They grumble but start to collect their belongings, draining cans of beer and finishing off the last few joints. Ken kisses Monica goodbye and in less than ten minutes theyre in Ryans car and gone. Ryan doesnt glance my way once before leaving. Asshole. Monica starts to throw empty cans and wrappers into a plastic trash bag, but Kristin puts a hand on her shoulder. That can wait, she says in a low voice, glancing in my direction. Monica and Kristin hurry down the stairs into the basement with me close behind them. Kristin flips the lights on, and my eyes go immediately to Nicole, whos hunched in the corner, her head buried in her hands. Nicole? Monica rushes to her, trying to pry her hands away. Whats wrong? Are you okay? Kristin looks at me tentatively and then takes a step towards them, looking concerned. Nicole raises her head. Her eyes are red and watery and her makeups all smudged. I feel so bad, she blubbers, wiping her eyes. I didnt mean to, but we were down here alone and, and, she hiccups, he just started kissing me and it wasnt my fault She dissolves into tears. No ones blaming you, Monica reassures her, stroking her hair. Kristin nods in confirmation. I cant believe theyre buying her crap. Are you serious? I snap at Nicole. Do you honestly think Im falling for that? Your little innocent act? You knew exactly what you were doing. Nicole starts crying hysterically and both Kristin and Monica shoot me dirty looks. Then Nicole rushes to Monicas dartboard and snatches up a metal dart. I feel so bad I

could cut myself, she announces dramatically, tears streaming down her face. She brings the dart close to her wrist. Monica snatches the dart away while Kristin grabs Nicoles shoulders and steers her to the couch. Just sit down, Kristin coos. Itll be okay. I promise. But Milas so mad, Nicole says, sobbing into Kristins shoulder. Just calm down, Monica soothes, rubbing Nicoles back. Shes upset now, but shell understand you didnt know what you were doing. Shell come around. Kristin looks at me. Mila. Shes really drunk. She doesnt even know what shes saying. You cant really blame her for what happened. She feels really bad, Monica adds. She was going to cut herself! Tell her youre not mad. She wasnt actually going to, I spit. Shes just trying to get you on her side here! This is all an act, cant you see that? Suddenly I cant stand to be in the same room with any of them. I storm upstairs and collapse on the couch, regretting my decision to get a ride with Kristin and not drive myself. Now Im stuck here with these bitches until the morning. Kristin comes upstairs and sits next to me on the couch. She puts both hands on my shoulders. Look, she says in a low voice, we all know what Nicole did was wrong. But Im trying not to take sides here, and right now shes a mess. She wants to cut herself! Im just trying to calm her down. Kristin, youre taking her side by supporting her here, I point out angrily. Im the one who just got stabbed in the back, and you and Monica just want to make sure the bitch is okay? Thats messed up. Kristin sighs. Mila. Nicoles so young and nave. Shes so sweet and you two are best friends. Do you honestly think she was trying to hurt you? Shes all upset over it. And youre Im what? I snap. Kristin looks like she regrets starting this sentence, but plows on anyway. Youre so confident and assured. You dont need us as much as she does. If we dont help her through this She gestures hopelessly at the floor. Well, you saw how she is. Shell be a wreck.

What Kristin is saying is so wrong. Yes, Im the loud, confident type, but just because I dont let myself get pushed around doesnt mean that I dont need the support my friends in a situation like this. And Nicoledont they see shes not this nave little angel? Its a front. She acts like a sweet ditz, but I know shes smarter than she lets on. And apparently, meaner than she lets on, too. Just leave me alone, I say bitterly, turning away. Go and comfort Nicole like you obviously want to. Mila Kristin places a hand on my back, but I shrug it off. Come on. Dont be like this. When I dont respond, she sighs and I hear her walk back downstairs. Im half-hoping that she comes back or that Monica tries to comfort me, but neither of them appears. I know better than to hope for Nicole. Any girl who can destroy her best friend like this clearly has no interest in saving the friendship. I curl up alone on Monicas sofa and silently cry myself to sleep.

BLAKE EARLIER THAT EVENING Bottoms up, bitches! I shout, holding my shot glass aloft. My two best friends, Bree and Carrie, drain their own shots enthusiastically. From their perches on Brees barstools, fraternal twins Jessica and Julie, look on in disapproval. Whatever. I tilt back my head and take a double shot. Come on, Bree thrusts a full shot glass at each of the twins. Live a little. We have a field hockey tournament tomorrow, Julie says primly, shooting a meaningful glance at me, since Im co-captain with her. I dont want to be hungover. Even you arent that much of a lightweight, I cackle. And its preaseason! Youll be fine. One shot wont hurt, Carrie points out. Jessica good-naturedly takes a shot, but Julie straight-out refuses. Fine. Dont be any fun, Bree says, shrugging it off. She tosses me a beer and holds another bottle out to the group at large. Anyone else? They all shake their heads. Im the only one who likes beer. Fine. More for the boys. When are the boys coming, anyway? Jessica looks bored, like she usually does when shes not with her prissy boyfriend. Yawn. Blake? Bree looks at me expectantly. I hold my hands up. Hey, I only talked to Calvin. Hes coming straight from work, so I dont know about the rest. I talked to John, Carrie volunteers. He said hell be over around nineish with Alec and Brian. I glance at the kitchen clock. Its already quarter of nine. Theyll be here any minute! Whos down for some hot tub? Bree whoops and Carrie drains another shot in agreement. I dont have a bathing suit, Jessica says. Its kind of cold, Julie seconds primly.

I love the twins, but in all honesty they are no fun to party with. Jessica is too in love with her boyfriend to have fun without him, and Julie just isnt into the drinking/hooking up thing. But this is the same group of people weve had together in the summers since freshman year, so we invite them along out of habit. Bree scampers upstairs and returns less than a minute later with a bright orange bikini for Jessica. Here, bitch. Youre going in whether you like it or not. Thats the spirit, I say in approval. I whip off my clothes (I already have my favorite black bikini on underneath), hoist up the cooler of beer, and lead the charge out to the hot tub. Its cool out for September, maybe in the midfifties. Bree opens the hot tub and we all jump inside. Carries brought along a bottle of raspberry-flavored vodka- yum, my favorite and several shot glasses. She always thinks of everything. By the time John finally shows up with Alec and Brian in tow, Im feeling pleasantly wasted and friendlier toward everyone. The eight of us squeeze into the hot tub and the boys start pouring more rounds. With every additional gulp of vodka, Bree gets sluttier, Carrie gets gigglier, and I get pissier. Where the hell is Calvin? Calvins here, Bree crows triumphantly, standing up in the middle of the hot tub. Brian smacks her butt playfully and she collapses into his lap, laughing. Im about to turn and look for myself when I feel two arms wrap across my chest. Calvin rests his head on my shoulder. Hey, beautiful. Carrie raises her eyebrows suggestively but everyone else ignores me as I hop out of the hot tub. I go to grab a towel from the table, but Calvin grabs my wrist. Nah, dont put a towel on. He grins appreciatively, looking me up and down. I smile back. God, Ive missed him this last month. It almost doesnt seem fair that Calvin and I only got together in May. Since hes Brees cousin, hes been around sometimes and Ive always thought he was hot, but it wasnt

until the after-prom party that we started talking. Wed both come with lame dates and quickly ditched them. That was the first night wed hooked up, and what started as a drunken one-night thingturned into an all-summer flingthat turned surprisingly serious. Ive never liked the commitment of relationships, and Calvins not exactly the type of guy who will limit himself to one girl. But we both felt something more, so we had a serious conversation about what our relationship was in the beginning of June. Of course, by then we had another issue to worry about: time. Calvin goes on a three week cruise every year at the end of June, and I had my equally long trip to Germany this August. Adding in weekends away, his work schedule, and my soccer practices, we realized that with so much time apart a committed relationship just wouldnt work. So we decided on an open one; we would talk almost daily when away, could hook up with other people, but couldnt date other people- in other words, nothing that meant anything. I still havent told Calvin about Max- I wanted to do it in person. Im not sure how hell take it. Come on, lets go catch up, Calvin says in his slow, confident voice. He takes my hand and leads me around the corner of the house to Brees moms little garden, which allows us some privacy from the others. He wraps both arms around my waist and brings me close. Ive missed you. Before I can answer, his lips are on mine and the next ten minutes are a blur of Calvin and happiness. But then I pull away. Ive missed you too, I giggle, looking up at the stars. Hes nuzzling my neck, which feels wonderful but makes it hard to concentrate. I have to tell you something. It can wait, he murmurs. I move my head so Im staring into his beautiful brown eyes. His lips are tantalizingly close, and Im so tempted to swallow my words and kiss him- a longing thats even stronger because I know hes not going to like what Im about to say. Calvin I trail off as he kisses my neck. I met someone.

He stiffens. You met someone? In Germany, I add quickly. I feel him relax. And Ive met lots of girls, he says nonchalantly. You know that. What we also both know is that met means hooked up with. This was different, I insist. Different how? he asks, holding me at arms length. I search his eyes. He honestly has no idea what Im about to say. Different because we went sort of far, I admit. Hes angry. Blake, I thought we said we could make out with other people. What did you do? I take a deep breath and plunge right into it. In Germany I met a guy one night. And we met up every night for the last week I was there, going to bars and clubs. The last night we went back to his apartment. And we slept together. Calvin stares at me. Are you honestly telling me that you wouldnt have sex with me, but you would with some random guy in Germany? You told me you were a virgin! I am, I protest. I mean, I was. Then explain why you wouldnt do it with me, he challenges, his eyes blazing with hurt, embarrassment, and anger. Calvin, Id known you for less than two months, I say quietly. And how long had you known him? Calvin spits. Three days? I choose my words carefully. What I had with him was deep. Those nights we were togetherit was something out of a fairytale. I never thought I could feel like that so quickly. With you- youre so much like me. Were crazy. Adventurous. Flirty. It wasnt meaningful. Not until you went away. And by the time it started to change, I left. And now Im back. Yeah, now youre back. Calvin looks at me coldly. But do I want you back? He turns and stalks away, not back toward the hot tub but farther into Brees dark yard. I hesitate, not knowing whether to go after him. That went

all wrong. I sink down to my knees in the soft mulch, massaging my temples and trying to concentrate through the buzz of alcohol. Hey. Bree appears suddenly, a hand on my shoulder. Are you okay? I told him about Max. She winces. Bet that didnt go over too well. No, I say sadly. But I had to tell him. I think I might have ruined things for good. Hell cool down, Bree says reassuringly. Ill go talk to him. Bring him back to the hot tub. You can take some time here if you want. I dont want to sit here alone in the dark, but shes already disappeared into the dark, following Calvin. I sigh heavily, fighting back tears, and stand to return to my friends. But someone else rounds the corner of the house before I can. Hey, Blake. Its Alec. Can we talk? Hi, Alec. Im a little confused. Alec and I are friendly, but we never hang out alone or text, so I dont know why hed seek me out like this. Uh, sure. I sit back down on the rock wall. Its about Carrie, Alec begins, wringing his hands. He sits next to me. Is she still with Taylor? Carries been in an on-and-off relationship for a while, but I think that its finally over for good. No, shes not. Do you think theyll get back together? he asks anxiously, running a hand through his floppy blonde hair. My phone vibrates in my pocket; hoping its Calvin, I pull it out. Its Bree. GET OVER HERE NOW, shes texted. CANT, IM WITH ALEC, I respond, and then try to remember what Alec said. Uh, no, I dont think so. I think theyre finally over for good. Thank God. Ive never been a huge Taylor fan, I offer. Bree texts back immediately; I open it and my blood runs cold. CALVIN AND JULIE ARE HOOKING UP.

Im so caught off guard, I dont even really hear Alec as he goes on about how thankful he is that Ill talk this out with him, and that hes liked Carrie for ages, and how he hopes that I can tell him if hes got a chance, and maybe put in a good word for him? ARE YOU SERIOUS? I answer Bree, wondering if this is some sort of sick joke. Her response: YES. So, do you think Ive got a chance? Alec asks, peeking at me hopefully. I stare at him blankly. With Carrie, I mean? he adds helpfully. I throw my phone on the ground and close my eyes. Im really touched that Alec chose me to approach with this Carrie issue, but his timing couldnt be worse. If I leave him now, it will kill any chance of us having a friendship. But I need to see Calvin and Julie for myself. My only solution is to have this talk with Alec and wrap it up as quickly as I can. How often do you and Carrie talk? I hear myself ask. Surprisingly, my voice is calm and bears no hint of the strain Im under. Alec seems relieved Im finally acting normally. Pretty often. We text a lot and we always talk when were in groups, but weve never hung out alone. Carries pretty private when it comes to boys, I tell him, and she doesnt offer information. I have to ask about specific guys, so she hasnt mentioned you. But thats not necessarily bad. I think what you should do is ask her to hang out, just you two, and see how she responds. And Ill get her alone soon and ask her how she feels about you. Sound good? I stand up, relieved that this conversation is over. Alec stands too. Yeah. Thanks so much for doing this, Blake. No problem, I force a smile, hoping it looks semi-real, and then dart past him back towards the hot tub. I round the corner, not knowing what to expect and not knowing how Im going to react. Should I bitch Calvin out? Freak on Julie? Cry and hope Carrie comes after me? But the real option turns out to be d, none of the above. Everyones still in or around the hot tub, Julie included- she looks grumpy and is glued to her

phone over by the snacks. Calvin is nowhere in sight. I pause, confused. Bree catches my eye and points off to the driveway. He went that way, she mouths. I decide to go after Calvin first- maybe he can explain his actions, since he and Julie clearly werent hooking up for long. Ill deal with her later. I head to the driveway and find Calvin standing alone under the basketball hoop, in the process of draining a Corona. He doesnt look happy. Calvin, I say angrily. Oh, hey, Blake. Have you decided that you actually like me now? he says sarcastically. Is this your way of getting back at me? I spit, going up on my tiptoes so I can get in his face. Hooking up with one of my best friends? Thats low, way worse than what I did. What you did was sleep with someone else. His eyes are cold. Theres nothing worse than that, Blake. Nothing. But I havent done anything to you. I dont know what youre talking about. You know exactly what Im talking about. So does this mean were over, then? I demand. Despite my anger, Im not sure if I want it to be true. This is your way of dumping me? Calvin freezes, and I can tell that despite his anger he doesnt want to break up, either. I never said that. I think hooking up with Julie made your intentions pretty clear. I search his face for guilt or embarrassment, but all I see is confusion. Hooking up with Julie? Blake, I would never do that. What the hell are you talking about? Bree told me you were, I tell him accusingly. Then shes making crap up, he says in disgust. That never happened. I promise. My heart leaps and I take his hand. If you didnt hook up with Juliethen were good, right? You and me? Calvin takes what feels like an eternity to answer. What you didwe never set real limits, and Ive come close to doing the same thing. And at least

you told me, so, yeah, I could maybe forgive you for that, he agrees, but something in his tone doesnt seem right. But that you believed I would hook up with your friend and hurt you like that? I dont know if thats something I can get over. He drops his empty beer bottle and it breaks into a million glass pieces. My stomach drops. Is he serious? Calvin, I plead. Come on. Brees my best friend. Of course I believed her. And Im supposed to be your boyfriend, he says coldly. But I dont know if thats the case anymore, Blake. I just dont know. And with that, he spins and stalks off towards his car. I watch in silence as he pulls out of the driveway and speeds away. I look down at the shards around my feet and bite my lip as my eyes start to water. The bottle is my heart- shattered into pieces. Blake? Carrie appears around the corner of the house. Are you okay? What happened? Bree and Jessica appear, trailing her. I raise my head and stare at Bree. Why would you do that? I ask in a flat monotone. Why would you lie to me? Bree hangs her head instead of answering. What is she talking about? Carrie asks Bree. What did you say? Jessica, who seems to have some idea of what happened, quietly explains to Carrie while I stare at Bree, who refuses to meet my eyes. We thought it would be funny, Bree says finally. Pitifully. A joke. I didnt think youd believe it. Youre my best friend, I close my eyes. You knew I would. And, thanks to you, it looks like me and Calvin are over. For good. So, I hope youre happy. I know you didnt like us together. And now you got what you wanted. I cant look at her anymore. Instead, I storm past her into the house. Carrie follows and sits with me on the couch in silence for several minutes. Eventually Bree comes in with the twins, having sent the boys home early. Theres an awkward moment where she pauses in the doorway.

Im sorry, Blake, she offers. I didnt think this would happen. Im sorry. And Im certain shes telling the truth- she didnt think anything bad would happen. To her, it was just a funny prank that went a little wrong. Its fine, I mutter. Carrie rubs my shoulder comfortingly and Jessica puts in some romantic comedy. The others slowly drift off to sleep, and Im left awake with Calvins last words running through my head.

MILA THREE DAYS LATER There. On the third try, I finally get my stupid locker open. Its only the second day of school, and somehow Ive managed to lock my combination inside twice already. I really hate the first week of school. Returning to school after a leisurely summer is bad enough, but finding new classrooms and getting used to new teachers is even more stressful. Add in the tension between me and my friends, and I dont think anyone could cook up a recipe for a more disastrous September. I snatch my English notebook off of a precariously balanced pile of textbooks, getting upset all over again at the thought of Saturday night, when my best friend hooked up with my semi-boyfriend. Nicole hooked up with Ryan. Somehow it sounds worse when I put their names into the sentence- maybe its because it personalizes the whole thing for my life. Sunday morning I woke Kristin up early, not wanting to face Monica or listen to Nicoles fake apologies. I didnt really want to see Kristin, either, for that matter, but what choice did I have? The drive home was awkward, but Kristin at least made an attempt at a sincere apology. I could have been a bit more gracious, but even though things may be weird, Kristin and I both know that my anger at her and Monica is misdirected. Nicole, obviously, is a totally different story. According to Monica, she was apparently really upset when she found out Id booked it out of there Sunday morning. What, did she think I was going to hang around to bask in the memory of her backstabbing? Fat chance of that. She called me a million and three times Sunday, but I didnt pick up. And she wasnt in school yesterday- not surprising. Nicoles never been a good student, and she probably overslept and convinced her mom to let her skip the first day. And she wasnt the only one trying to reach me- Ryan was, too, and that was one call I actually picked up. I raised the phone to my ear without saying a word. Mila?

I deliberated on how to start this conversation. I could be bitchy Screw off; I could be snarky Who else?; I could be pitiful Do you know what you did to me? I could be angry Why the hell did you do that? Instead I settled on detached. Yeah. He talked so quickly that I had to concentrate to understand him. Mila, look, Im so sorry. I know that you probably completely hate me, and you have the right to, but please know I didnt want to hurt you. Hell, I barely knew what I was doing. It was just that I was drunk and high and you and me had just been hooking up and then a girl comes into a dark roomit happened and if I had thought about what I was doing or what it would mean I never would have done it. I was surprised at how calm I felt, listening to him babble so pathetically, groveling for my forgiveness. Yeah, Id hope not. But you did, so Mila. His voice cracked on my name. I really like you and I dont want some stupid one-time thing to come in the middle of us. I know we werent official or anything and I dont even know what was going on with us but even before that, were friends and I dont want to hurt you. I was careful to keep my voice even. Its a little late for that, Ryan. Bye. He started to protest, but Id already hung up. There was nothing for me to say to him. Im torn out of my unpleasant memories by a small voice, a voice Id know anywhere. Hi. I close my locker and see Nicole standing there awkwardly. Whether its for show or not, she looks terrible. Her blonde hair is greasy and pulled back in an unkempt bun, shes wearing no trace of makeup, and there are dark circles under her eyes. I have nothing to say to her, either, so I start to walk away, but she catches my arm. Mila? Can we talk? Please? she says quietly. Out of the corner of my eye I notice Monica watching the exchange from across the hallway. Of course, Monica wants this all to blow over. For me to forgive Nicole and pretend like nothing ever happened. I wish I could just blow by Nicole and get to English, but I realize thats not going to happen. And, lets face it- sooner or later were going to have to have some sort of

confrontation, anyways. Even though Im not looking forward to any conversation with her, I guess its better that it happens sooner rather than later. That way I can make it clear to Nicole that our friendship is over for good and she can stop wasting her time trying to win me over. I have to get to class, I say coldly. She doesnt give up. At lunch? I dont know why shes putting so much effort into saving a friendship that she clearly never cared much about in the first place, but its obvious that theres no avoiding a conversation. Fine. I push past her and duck into the safety of AP English, where Nicole cant touch me. Unfortunately, Monica and Kristin can, and they swarm around me as soon as I slide into my seat. How are you feeling? Kristin asks in concern, rubbing my back. I resist the urge to shrug her off. Monica leans across the aisle. I saw you talking to Nicole I notice Blake, who sits a few seats away, watching us curiously. Im pretty friendly with Blake since we play sports together, but she has her own clique and I have mine. I keep my voice low. How do you think I feel? Like shit. Monica and Kristin look meaningfully at each other. You didnt talk to Nicole? Monica asks cautiously. I mean, I cant avoid her forever. She wants to talk and shell get her chance. I stare ahead, avoiding their gazes. But its not like I have anything to say to her. The two of them exchange a loaded glance, but before they can pressure me any further, our teacher calls the class to order and they dutifully return to their assigned seats. The rest of the morning passes uneventfully. I escape English without talking to Kristin or Monica again and have no classes with either of them for the rest of the day, which in all honesty suits me just fine. The only thing that stands out in my mind is the end of study hall, the period just before lunch. Im sitting with my iPod in, trying to memorize a list of irregular conjugations, and I notice Blake and Carrie whispering a few feet away. Like I said before, Im friendly with Blake, and Carrie and I are friends even if were in different cliques. But I still want to know if theyre talking about me, since I

have a feeling Blake overheard us in English. I press pause on my iPod and strain to hear their hushed voices. not texting me back, Blakes saying. And he wont pick up his phone, either. Hell come around, Carrie reassures her. He really likes you. I move to turn the music back on, since Im not really the type to eavesdrop on random conversations, but then I hear my name. Doesnt look like Milas having a great day, either, Blakes eyes flit in my direction. At least Im not alone. I frown, not realizing I was being that obvious about my misery. My friends and I try to keep our drama within our small circle. The way I see it, no one needs to know our business. Yeah, Taylor mentioned something about that, Carrie begins to explain, but the lunch bell rings and I head out of the frying pan and into the fire: Nicole is waiting to ambush me outside my study, leaving no chance for me to avoid talking to her. Hi, she says in a small voice. I close my eyes for a full beat. I am so not ready to talk to her, but it has to happen and shes not going to give up until I at least give her a chance to pretend to apologize. I turn and make my wall to a corner of the stairwell and wait while two classes worth of freshmen scurry by. Then I stare at a spot about two inches above Nicoles tiny frame. Go ahead. Talk. Nicole takes a deep, shuddering breath and then starts speaking very quickly, like shes scared Im going to either leave or deck her before she can finish (and Im definitely considering both options). Mila, Im so sorry. Hooking up with Ryan was such a huge mistake and I know youre really upset. I would be if it were me. I was really drunk and he was just there and it just happened. She pauses to give me time to reply and then continues awkwardly when I remain silent. I swear, I didnt plan this. I didnt like him or anything. Its not like I went into Saturday intending to hoo- Thats as far as she gets before I interrupt. Originally I was planning to maintain an icy silence, but thats clearly not going to happen. I believe you. You do? she asks hopefully.

Yeah. I do. And that just makes it worse. I force myself to hold her gaze, watching as she wilts under the pressure of my accusations. You would throw away a six-year friendship over a guy who you didnt even like? At least if you had been harboring this secret crush on him or somethingThat, I guess, would give you some excuse at least. But this? Hooking up with your best friends guy just because you were horny? I search my mind for the right word. Thats just despicable. Nicole looks like shes about to cry. Im so sorry. I was drunk and it just happened I dont have anything else to say to you, I tell her before turning and walking away. Behind me, I think I can hear her sniffling and maybe even crying, but I dont stop. I dont even look back.

BLAKE THAT AFTERNOON The final bell rings and I grab my books and practically run down the hall to my locker, almost trampling a little freshman who has to flatten himself against the wall to avoid me. By the time Im at my locker I already have one hand in my purse fishing for my phone and the other working the combination. I pull out my phone just as my locker swings open. Yes! I murmur. Calvin texted back. I was too mad at him to try to talk to him yesterday, but by this morning I realized that none of this was really his fault and that Id probably react the same way if I were him. I texted him asking him to meet me after school to talk- his school gets out fifteen minutes before Riverwood, so he could get here right as class ends and he said he would. I reach inside my locker, snatch my car keys, and am about to rush outside to meet him when I bump into Carrie. Woah there, Blake! she laughs, reaching out a hand to steady me. Whats the hurry? Calvin texted back, I explain, my stomach twisting in anticipation. Hes probably here already. She nods in understanding. Good luck, then. Let me know how it goes. Of course. I pass Bree on my way to the parking lot; she gives me a tentative smile which I return half-heartedly. We didnt talk yesterday, either. Im still bitter about her prank, but Ive been cordial (if a little cool) to her today in school. Im momentarily blinded by the bright sunlight as I step outside. It takes a second before my eyes adjust enough to let me see Calvin, leaning against his black Mustang just a few feet away. He sees me and gives a small wave. Hey, I say nervously. Thanks for coming. I dont have that much time. He slides on a pair of mirrored aviators and runs a hand through his hair.

Okay, well I take a deep breath. Calvin, Im really sorry about doubting you at Brees. I shouldve known you would never do that to me. I should have realized what she was trying to do. He cracks a smile. Yeah, shes never really liked us together. But it was still a bitchy move on her part. Shes your best friend. Yeah. I dont want to badmouth Bree too much to him- he might be pissed at her now, but she is his cousin. We seem to be cool about Saturday, so I press on to the more uncomfortable topic. And about GermanyI meant what I said before. Back then, you and me didnt really have a meaningful relationship. We just kind of hooked up now and then. Now, its different. But Im only just hearing about it now, he says with a small smile. I felt like I should tell you in person, and its been so crazy this last week, I tell him. But believe me: if I were in the same situation now, I wouldnt even have to talked to him. The stupid sunglasses are making it impossible for me to read Calvins expression. I wait anxiously while he deliberates. I believe you, he says finally. I guess I shouldnt have gotten so mad when we never set any real boundaries. I exhale. So were good?