Authors: Melody Carlson
Tags: #Young Adult, #(¯`'•.¸//(*_*)\\¸.•'´¯)
Conner nodded then tipped his straw cowboy hat. “And this hat was his too. I think it’s practically an antique. Remind me to be careful with it.”
“You might want to take it off if you do any actual bouncing tonight.”
He chuckled as he started the engine. “Hopefully things won’t get too out of hand.”
DJ said a silent prayer as Conner drove toward the beach. More than anything, she hoped things wouldn’t get out of hand too. For once, it would be nice just to enjoy a fun party without all the crud that some people felt came with the territory.
As it turned out, things didn’t get the least bit out of hand at the beach house. But that was just because Harry, Taylor, Conner, and DJ seemed to be the only ones to show up.
“Do you think something happened to them?” DJ asked Taylor when it was past seven and still no one else had come. “Like a car wreck or something?” The guys had already been outside checking out the road to make sure that no one’s car had gotten stuck in the soft spot by the creek. But it looked like they were on their way back now.
Taylor frowned. “More like an Eliza wreck.”
“Do you think she’s somehow gotten everyone to boycott the dinner party just because we said no alcohol?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.” Taylor picked up her phone and called Eliza, holding out her phone so DJ could hear it going straight to voicemail. Taylor just shook her head. “I’ll call Casey,” she said as she punched more buttons.
“Let me try Rhiannon,” said DJ quickly. She hit speed dial and waited.
“DJ,” said Rhiannon in a relieved voice. “I was so sorry to hear what happened.”
“What happened?” asked DJ.
“You know, about the dinner party getting canceled because of that whole plumbing disaster.”
“What plumbing disaster?” DJ was eyeing Taylor now.
“You know, the bathroom pipe that burst and flooded the entire beach cabin with sewage. What a mess.”
“Who told you that?”
There was a long pause. “Eliza…”
plumbing problem, Rhiannon. Eliza flat-out lied to you.”
Taylor looked mad now. “What is going on?” she hissed.
DJ quickly explained and Taylor looked even more upset. “So where are you guys anyway?” DJ asked Rhiannon.
“At Lane’s house. He and Eliza threw some things together for everyone so we could have dinner. It’s actually pretty nice.”
“Yes, I’m sure they just
them together too.”
“You could be right. Where are you guys anyway?”
“We’re at the beach house,” DJ said stiffly. “With a whole lot of great-looking food and no one besides us to eat it.”
Rhiannon sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“So are you guys coming or not?”
“Well, we’ve already started eating, DJ. And I don’t really see how we can make it all the way out to the beach house and back to town without being really late for the dance, and Lane said they won’t let anyone in after nine.”
“Big surprise there.” DJ growled. “Have fun!”
“If it makes you feel any better,
it’s not that fun
. Lane’s parents are at the dance and the bar is open.” Rhiannon sighed. “Wide open!”
“Yeah…” Rhiannon’s voice grew sad. “And I thought tonight was going to be different.”
“I wish I was with you guys instead.”
DJ could hear Bradford in the background, urging Rhiannon to hang up the phone and come dance. “We’ll see you later,” she told Rhiannon. “Hang in there.”
DJ shut her phone and looked blankly at Taylor. “Eliza Wilton is such a—”
“What’s up?” asked Conner as he and Harry joined them in the kitchen. DJ quickly explained and Harry looked seriously irked.
“They went to all that trouble just so they could drink?” Conner asked in disbelief. “Isn’t that pretty extreme?”
“Not just so they could drink,” Taylor said quietly. “Eliza did it to get back at me.”
“Get back at you for what?”
Taylor smiled at Harry. “What do you think?”
He pointed to his chest.
“That and a bunch of other things,” DJ added. “Eliza seems to think she’s in competition with all of us. And she just seems to take it to new levels.”
“I can’t believe she’d do something so low.” Harry shook his head. “That explains why Lane and Garrison aren’t answering their phones.”
“Sure, why would they?” Conner said with a frown. “Lane’s over there handing out free booze. I’m sure they were more than happy to hear that your pipes had burst, Harry.”
“I’d like to burst something.” Harry shook his fist in the air.
“They say the best revenge is living well,” Taylor said calmly. “I suggest we all just sit down and enjoy this lovely meal.”
Harry took in a deep breath then grinned at Taylor. “I like your style.”
DJ nodded. “She’s right. We should be having a good time. Why let the jerks get to us?” She looked around the pretty room, lit with lots of candles and strings of cheerful white lights. Harry had some good bluegrass music playing to “get them into the rockabilly mood.”
“That’s the spirit,” said Conner.
“And now we can eat at the table together,” said Taylor. “Instead of buffet.”
Taylor and DJ soon had the table set, and Harry and Conner played waiter by serving them from the big dishes. And before long, they were all seated around the table, eating some very good food, and DJ realized that they really were having fun.
“This is so much better then being around a bunch of loud drunks,” DJ pointed out as Harry and Conner headed to the kitchen for their dessert.
“No barfing, no fighting, no breaking things,” said Taylor.
“Or being hauled off to jail for underage drinking,” called Harry from the kitchen.
“A much better way to live,” Taylor said happily.
“Very refined,” said Harry as he sat the girls’ desserts in front of them.
“And lots more food for us.” Conner chuckled as he put a giant-sized piece of cherry cobbler à la mode at his place.
“What’ll we do with the leftovers?” asked DJ suddenly. “We can’t even take them home since we fly out in the morning.”
“My mom works at the soup kitchen on Saturdays,” said Conner. “Maybe I can see if she can use them.”
“Now I feel even better,” said Taylor. “Not only did we miss out on our friends sneaking their booze in here, which I’m
sure would’ve happened, but we’re helping to feed the poor as well.”
Once they had finished eating, cleaned things up, and stowed the food in the fridge (until Conner’s mom could pick it up in the morning), they headed off to the dance. DJ wasn’t that surprised to see that their friends hadn’t arrived yet. But the four of them headed straight out to the dance floor and whooped it up with the best of them. The rockabilly dance was a regular hoedown and actually a lot of fun.
“I don’t know why they don’t have lots of rockabilly dances,” DJ announced as they were taking a break by the refreshment bar. “Or maybe I’m just a redneck at heart.”
“It’s fun to lighten up and act silly sometimes,” agreed Taylor. “Without drinking, I mean.”
“Didn’t I hear that no one was allowed in here after nine?” Harry glanced at his watch.
“That’s what Rhiannon said,” DJ told him.
“Looks like some of them are just getting in under the wire.” He nodded toward the entrance and they all peered over to see Lane and Eliza coming in, with Rhiannon and Bradford trailing behind. Eliza’s cheeks were flushed and she looked a little rumpled. But what really got DJ’s attention was Rhiannon. She actually seemed to be staggering.
“Do you think Rhiannon’s been drinking?” DJ whispered to Taylor.
Taylor just shook her head. “Looks like a distinct possibility.”
DJ waved toward them, but either they didn’t see her or had decided to ignore her. “I’m going to find out what’s up,” DJ said suddenly.
“Not me,” said Taylor. “I don’t trust myself to speak to Eliza just yet.”
“That works for me,” said Harry as he grabbed her hand. “Let’s go do some more boot-scootin’ boogie.”
And then they were off.
“Do you mind?” DJ asked Conner. “Rhiannon doesn’t look too good, and I’d like to know where Kriti and Casey are.”
“I’m with you,” he said firmly.
They cut through the crowd until they reached where the foursome was gathered on the sidelines and Rhiannon was just sitting down. “Hey,” said DJ in what she hoped was a friendly voice, “you guys made it after all.”
“Barely,” snapped Eliza.
“Well, you don’t seem very happy to be here.” DJ peered at Eliza and then over to where Rhiannon was sitting slumped over like a sack of potatoes. “Is she okay?”
“She’ll be fine,” Bradford said quickly. “Just got a little carsick coming over here.”
“Because you were driving like a maniac,” snarled Eliza. “I thought we’d all be killed.”
“You would’ve been killed if you’d let Lane drive.”
DJ looked at Lane now and it looked like his eyes were barely focused. He was loosening his string tie and leaning into the table like he might fall over any minute.
“We had a lovely evening,” DJ said suddenly. “A really nice meal and good company, and just as we were leaving we got to watch the moon rising over the ocean.” She smiled at Conner. “Really beautiful, wasn’t it?”
He nodded. “And this dance is fun too, Lane. Thanks for telling us about it.”
“No problem.” His voice was slurred. But then he seemed to wake up. “But what about that plumbing problem? All that raw sewage at Harry’s place. You guys didn’t eat there, did you?”
DJ laughed and looked directly at Eliza. “No, there was no plumbing problem. Eliza just made that little story up.”
Eliza looked away now.
“You made that up?” Now Lane looked confused. “And we trashed my parents’ house when we could’ve been—”
“Trashing Harry’s place?” Conner offered.
Lane made a crooked smile. “Something like that.”
“Well, thanks to the absence of booze, Harry’s place is in great shape,” continued DJ. “And our dinner was delightful.”
“We’re sorry you couldn’t come.” Conner looked evenly at Bradford now. “As it turned out, we didn’t even need your help.”
“Apparently Rhiannon did.” DJ put a hand on Rhiannon’s head, and Rhiannon let out a low moan. “Are you okay?” DJ asked her again.
“I jus’ wanna go home.”
DJ turned to Bradford. “Did you give her something to drink?”
He looked sheepish.
“Have you been drinking too?” demanded Conner.
Bradford held his thumb and forefinger to show “a little.”
DJ peered more closely at him. “Are you drunk too?”
“No,” he said in a way that was convincing. “I only had one beer. And I only gave Rhiannon one screwdriver. But it was on an empty stomach, and then I think someone gave her another and I’m not sure how much vodka was involved.”
DJ shook her finger in his face. “And if she’s sick, it’s your fault.”
“I just wanted her to have some fun,” he said defensively. “She’s been so uptight and she works so hard, and I thought one little drink would—”
“Lead to another,” finished Conner.
“And here’s what you’re going to do,” DJ said firmly. “You’re going to call a cab and you’re going to see that Rhiannon gets home. I’m going to call and ask Inez to meet you at the door and to help Rhiannon to bed. And I know Inez will do that because she actually likes Rhiannon.” She narrowed her eyes at Bradford. “I thought you did too!”
Conner had his phone out now. “I’m calling you a cab,” he told Bradford. “DJ’s right, man, you need to take her home.”
“But we just got here.”
Rhiannon let out a low moan.
“I don’t care.” DJ wanted to punch him. “You get her home or I’ll tell my grandmother what you did tonight, and she’ll call your parents, and—”
“Fine!” He turned and reached down for Rhiannon. “We’re going.”
“And you be nice to her,” snapped DJ.
“That’s right,” added Conner. “Or you’ll be sorry.”
DJ turned to Eliza now. “To be honest, I really don’t want to talk to you, but I am curious as to the whereabouts of your roommate. And Kriti too.”
Eliza rolled her eyes. “Kriti and Josh left the party early. I haven’t the slightest idea where they went…probably a lecture.”
DJ felt relieved for Kriti’s sake. “They probably got fed up with you drunks and figured the dance wouldn’t be any better.”
“We’re not drunks.”
DJ decided not to argue. “Okay, then, what about Casey and Seth? Where are they?”
Eliza just shrugged. “I don’t have the slightest.” Now she turned back to Lane. “Come on,” she told him. “If we’re not on the dance floor, we’ll never get picked for best costume.”
She reached for his string tie. “And I told you to leave that on, Lane. You have to look perfect.”
DJ couldn’t control herself now. “Yes, by all means, make sure you look perfect. You’ve lied to your friends. You’ve been drinking. You helped to make Rhiannon sick. You left your boyfriend’s house trashed. But by all means you must look perfect.” DJ laughed. “Not that it’s even a possibility, Eliza. I mean, seriously, have you looked in the mirror lately?”
Eliza looked slightly shocked, but she recovered quickly. She patted her hair and quickly put on some lip gloss, then dragged Lane out to the dance floor.
“I shouldn’t have talked to her like that,” DJ admitted as they walked back to join Taylor and Harry. “I mean, I’m sure that’s not what Jesus would say. But I just felt so angry.”
Conner chuckled. “I don’t know. Jesus called the Pharisees white-washed sepulchers, and what you just said to Eliza was kind of along those same lines.”
“Huh? What’s a white-washed sepulcher?”
“It holds something dead, but to white-wash it would be like a cover-up, you know? Kind of like Eliza wanted to look all perfect and be admired and even win a prize when she’s been acting like a perfect fool.”
As it turned out, Eliza and Lane didn’t win the costume prize. But not for lack of trying. But to DJ’s surprised delight, Taylor and Harry won first prize. And since Rhiannon had designed their outfits, she figured that meant Rhiannon had won too.
“Way to go,” DJ congratulated the winning couple. “I can’t wait to tell Rhiannon.”
“I know,” agreed Taylor. “I thought of calling her, but figured she might prefer to hear about it in the morning.” Taylor frowned. “And I’m kind of worried about Casey too.”
“So am I,” DJ admitted. “I tried her phone and it seems to be off.”
“Let’s hope she’s okay.” Taylor shook her head. “I know I’ll be praying for her.”
“Me too.” DJ tried not to think about the creepy things Taylor had told her about Seth, and she tried not to think about Casey being under the influence. Really, all she could do for Casey was to pray—and to hope Casey might learn from all this and hopefully make better choices in the future. Unfortunately “the future” seemed way too close. The Carter House girls would fly into Palm Beach tomorrow evening and Lane and the other guys—except Conner—would arrive by train on Sunday afternoon. What might happen then was anyone’s guess. But tonight was about fun and DJ knew she could think about this other business later.