Thank you to ShearEnvy, roglows, bashfulfan and livie79.
Thanks to you for reading.
I should know not to have such high expectations.
If we hadn't spent years building up what happens here, I'm sure I wouldn't be disappointed. In my head the music was different. No one had too many Kool-aid and vodkas and got sick at the edge of the woods. In my head it was hotter and sunnier and I was laughing because everyone here was hilarious and awesome.
Turns out drunk upperclassmen aren't all that hilarious and awesome. They congregate in groups, standing by the bonfire pit. Some have laid out towels on the beach. No one is saying anything very interesting. Ben disappears a few minutes after we get there.
When Rose shows up she sits with me and Angela. They talk about cheerleading and I zone out. Angela has been cheering since the sixth grade and she's going straight to the Varsity squad this fall.
"When I'm head cheerleader we can totally work on routines together," Rose says. Angela smiles at her.
I know Ben's back in the vicinity when I hear a group of senior jocks yelling his name. After a few minutes he drops down next to Rose in the sand and she plants her full lips on his. I look away but Angela stares until I elbow her. After they disentangle Ben hands me a water bottle with red liquid in it.
"Don't tell mom," he says, smiling. Angela and I each take a few sips and a few minutes later my head feels light.
Ben gets up and Rose protests, trying to pull him back down in the sand. "But, babe, Edward got mushrooms…" he says, getting up and walking backwards away from us.
"No," Rose says. "No, Ben. Seriously. I can't babysit you idiots today. I have to go to a dinner thing with my parents tonight."
He shrugs, holding his hands up like he has no choice. She shakes her head and turns to me, raising her sunglasses so I can see her blue eyes. "When I leave, don't let him drive. Take his keys. And Edward's keys, but that will be harder than you think. Also, don't let them anywhere near the bonfire once they're tripping." My eyes widen. "And Edward gets handsy on mushrooms so double-knot your bikini top."
I glance at Angela. She raises her eyebrows at me.
"Seriously?" I ask Rose.
She lowers her sunglasses and lays back on her towel. "Serious as a heart attack."
"How will we know when they're tripping?"
She smiles. "Oh, you'll know."
"Don't talk. Stay in the backyard and out of the pool. Angela, you keep them from doing anything stupid while I try to figure out what to tell my parents."
We're pulled up in my driveway in Ben's car. I drove even though I don't technically have my license yet. It seemed like a better idea than giving the keys to one of the licensed but hallucinating drivers in the backseat.
Edward leans forward. He refused to put his seatbelt on and Angela spent half of the drive trying to keep him from opening the door while the car was moving."You always smell like coconuts. I like it." He speaks into my ear and I take a deep breath.
I think I've figured out how to tell when the mushrooms have kicked in.
Ben laughs, but he's got his hood pulled over his eyes and seems to have temporarily left the planet. Edward eyes me in the rearview mirror.
My heart is in my throat as I open the back gate for them. They file in silently and I start to think we might get away with this when Edward jumps, fully clothed, into the pool.
Angela turns to me."My hair," she says, touching the ends that she probably spent an hour flat-ironing this morning. I sigh, pulling off my shorts and hoodie, plugging my nose and following him into the deep end. He's floating a few feet under water and he doesn't resist when I wrap an arm around his chest and kick my legs to get us back to the surface.
I pull him to the shallow end. It's not until we're all the way out of the pool that I realize my bikini top is around my waist. Angela gasps and Edward grins. Ben is face down on a pool chair.
The stars aligned or something and there's a note in the kitchen letting us know that my parents went out for the night. Edward locks himself in the bathroom and I spend half an hour trying to get him to open the door. When he finally does he's shirtless and refuses to get dressed. I give up.
A few hours later everything starts to mellow out. The conversation starts to become more linear. They stop laughing uncontrollably. Ben talks like he got shot with truth serum, though.
"She's the best fucking girl. We fucking fit together, you know? Like our bodies were made to fit together."
I cringe. Gross.
Ben is laying with his head in Angela's lap. I catch her eye and she shrugs, rolling her eyes.
"You're perfect," Edward says to my left foot. He traces one finger around my ankle bone. I don't take it too personally. A few hours ago he was having a conversation with the wall of ivy next to the pool house.
He's laying backwards on the lounge chair next to me.
"Rose wants me to go to law school but fuck that. I'm going to be something great. Something fucking big, man. Something better than a lawyer."
"Yeah, man." Edward stares up at the sky.
"She doesn't believe in me," Ben says.
"I believe in you," Angela says.
I laugh harder than I should and Angela's cheeks turn red.
Edward sits up on his elbows. He's wearing one of Ben's hoodies and no t-shirt. The muscles in his chest flex as he angles himself toward me.
"Hi," he says. I smile.
"I should call her. I should call her and tell her that I'm a fucking man and I will do what I want," Ben says. "I'm a fucking man."
A car pulls into the driveway and I scan the area for anything that will get us grounded. It's not my parents, though. It's Rose and Jasper. She's wearing a floor-length gown and earrings that sparkle in the dim light. Her feet are bare and she holds the bottom of her dress off the ground with one hand. Jasper's in a tux, the bow tie undone and loose around his neck.
"Isn't this cozy," Jasper says. Angela stiffens. Ben still has his head in her lap.
"Babe," Ben says, reaching up toward Rose. He seems to have forgotten his recent monologue already. Rose smiles at him, taking his hand and helping him to his feet.
She kisses him and looks down at Angela, who looks slightly green. "I'll take it from here." It's not unkind but there's a cool edge to her words. She gives me a slight smile before she leads Ben into the house.
Jasper eyes Angela and sits on the edge of my chair, pulling a joint out of his pocket and lighting it. He passes it to Edward, who gets it going before he hands it to me.
I take it between my fingers and glance at my best friend. Her eyes are wide. Neither of us have smoked before. I hit it, coughing so hard afterward that I have to lay back in my chair. She takes it and coughs about as hard as I did.
Jasper and Edward laugh at us.
Jasper leaves at some point. It may be a minute later, or an hour. I'm not sure. I turn my head and look at Edward.
"It was my first time," I say. He turns his head.
"For real?" He seems a little bit more like himself than he did before. "Shit. I would have been more gentle."
Angela gets the giggles and I follow. It's not until we see the headlights in the driveway that we stop. Edward tosses the joint and we make our way quickly into the house, turning off lights as we go. In the upstairs hallway he remembers that Rose is in Ben's room. I push him toward the guest room and shut my bedroom door behind Angela and I with a muted click.
She grins at me and we collapse onto my bed, smiling. I hear my parents' door shut after a few minutes.
"I'm so high," she says.
"Do you like it?"
She shrugs. "I think so. I could eat everything."
I sit up. "Ice cream."
"Get me potato chips." She doesn't move. "And cookies," she adds, as I walk out of the room.
I'm trying to close the door silently behind me when I feel a hand on my lower back. I jump a mile, right into Edward's chest. He smiles and after I start to breathe normally, he follows me downstairs to the kitchen.
"I think I have the munchies," I tell him, opening the pantry door.
He grins and follows me in. Half an hour later we're sitting on the floor surrounded by crumbs and I'm laughing so hard that I'm doubled over and can't breathe.
"To be fair, I think every guy wishes he could suck his own dick."
I throw a handful of popcorn at him. "That is such a crass story."
"Oh, come on. I've never seen you laugh that hard."
"It's the weed," I say. But I'm lying and I can't stop smiling.
I look out at the kitchen from where we're sitting on the floor. "Oh crap. I totally forgot about Angela."
That inspires another round of giggles and when I recover he's watching me, the look on his face different than before. I stare back.
"What?" I lean my head back against the shelf behind us and we stare at each other.
"You're really pretty."
He does and then I wish he hadn't.
We should clean up the mess in the pantry, but we don't. When we get to the upstairs hallway it's hushed and quiet, but from behind a closed door I hear Rosalie moan. I cringe and Edward smiles his half-smile.
Unconsciously, he adjusts himself in his pants and I watch the movement more closely than I should.
"Take a picture…" he starts, in a whisper.
"Nothing I haven't seen before," I interrupt.
He smiles and tips his chin up, looking down at me from half-closed eyes. "Goodnight, Bella."
Angela is totally passed out on my bed so I slide in beside her, pulling the comforter over both of us. I have a smile on my face as I drift off.
I help Angela fold her tank tops and shorts. We've been getting on each other's nerves but every summer I dread the two weeks she's at camp.
"How many swimsuits do you really need?"
She tosses a few more into the suitcase, smiling. I hold one up. I've never seen her wear it. The bottom is so small it's almost indecent.
"I'm starting to think church camp may not be so bad after all."
She laughs. "Last year three girls in my bunk lost their virginity, and those are just the ones I know about."
I think about that, picking at a seam on her bedspread.
"Do you think you will this summer?"
Her movements slow momentarily as she focuses on folding the t-shirt in her hands. "Maybe. I don't know."Angela has kissed three guys and let one touch her boobs. I've gone one step further, but it hardly counts. I figured out pretty quickly that Tyler had no idea what he was doing when he got his hand up my skirt. It was under a strategically placed coat during the bus ride on a field trip and afterward he told everyone. I would undo it if I could.
"What about you?" she asks.
I laugh. "Yeah, right."
She shrugs. "If you could do it with anyone, who would you do it with?"
When I don't answer she rolls her eyes. She knows who. "Yeah, but who would you do it with in real life? It has to be realistic."
I look down. "No prospects," I say. "I'll probably die a virgin."
"Shut up. You will not."
I roll my eyes and after a few minutes she tosses a pair of shorts at my face.
"Why are you pouting?" she asks.
I answer honestly. "Is it really that ridiculous that Edward could like me?"
Picking up the pair of shorts, I fold them and set them in her suitcase.
"What, are you planning to, like, seduce him or something?" She laughs and turns around to start packing her makeup.
I bristle and change the subject, cruelly and deliberately. "You know, you seemed pretty cozy with my brother that night."
Her cheeks turn bright red and she avoids my gaze. "They were tripping," she says.
"Yeah, but you weren't." It's mean and I know it, but she hurt my feelings and I feel like returning the favor.
She turns to face me.
"It doesn't matter how I feel, because he could not be more taken. He and Rose are like...high school royalty. They're Ken and Barbie. Nothing could come between them." She struggles with a zipper and tugs at it, her brow furrowing angrily until it gives way. There's something in her tone that makes me really study her expression.
I stare at her. "What's going on?"
She looks up with tears in her eyes and opens her mouth a few times before speaking.
"We...kissed. Me and Ben."
I can actually feel the blood drain out of my face. "What?"
"I told him not to but he's going to tell Rosalie. I just know it. He probably already did. So I guess it's a good time for me to leave town." She wipes away the tears on her cheeks and resumes packing. I just stare at her. "It's not like I planned it, Bella. It didn't mean anything."
Her face crumples and I feel bad, but I'm kind of relieved that it's not serious.
She doesn't answer right away. "Thursday night."
That night the three of us watched movies until late. I sat on the floor, while both of them sat on the couch behind me. When I woke up the next morning Angela was already up and in the shower.
I frown. Her confession makes me wonder what else has been going on that I've missed.
I go along for the ride when Angela's mom drives her to the church to get on the bus with all of the other kids going to camp. She hugs me and I hug her back, but I'm really uncomfortable.
"I'll try to call you from the payphone there. Just answer if a weird number comes up on the caller ID."
"Have fun," I say, but I don't say I'll miss her and unlike in years past, neither of us cry.
Her mom and I wave as the bus pulls away. I have the image of her melancholy face burned in my brain for the rest of the day.
It takes about two days for everything to completely blow up between Ben and Rose. My house is slamming doors and an incessantly ringing phone. I feel lost without Angela and relieved that she isn't here, all at the same time.
I spend a lot of time at the river.
I turn my face up to the sun, taking a deep breath and enjoying the warmth on my bare skin. Edward startles me, dropping down in the sand. He's shirtless and I can feel his body heat radiating, a beer in each hand even though it's not even lunchtime yet. He offers me one and I hesitate, but take it out of his hands. Sunscreen and condensation make it slippery, so he takes it back and opens it for me, one side of his mouth turned up. He props his elbows up on his knees and our bare feet touch. I act like I don't notice.
"What's up?" he asks, probably noting that I'm sitting alone. "Is your sidekick in hiding?"
"Church camp," I say.
He makes a face, but I'm not sure if it's because of church camp or because of the civil war we're all enduring now that Rose knows Ben kissed another girl. "That seems ironic," he says.
We both stare out at the river. It's high this year. There are signs on the bank warning that the current is strong.
"Hey, so about the other night..." he starts.
I eye him from behind my sunglasses.
"In your pool…"
My stomach flips and I try to act cool but I'm not. I'm so not. "No."
He laughs. "No?"
"No, you don't have to apologize."
"Who said I was sorry?"
That makes me laugh. "I bet you told Ben you were."
That shuts him up for a second, but he leans in and whispers and the entire right side of my body tingles as his breath hits the spot just below my ear. "Yeah, but I lied."
It takes me a full minute to regain composure, but I do. "Are you flirting with me?"
"Is it bad if I am?" The question is serious, and for a second I can't breathe.
"No. It's not bad," I say, quietly. We sit for a second and then I smile. "Every guy who's ever seen me topless flirts with me. They're that good." I square my shoulders and stick my chest out.
"Not fair. I was so fucked up I can't really remember anything from that night."
"That would be a way better anti-drug campaign than the egg frying thing. Don't do drugs...you might forget the boobs you saw."
He sets his beer down in the sand. "That's it. I'm going straight edge."
I look around the beach for my brother. "Where are Ben and Rose?"
He picks his beer back up. "The clearing."
It's a favorite spot for making out and from what I've heard, more. I heard him pleading with her on the phone last night, though, so I have a feeling today all they're going to be doing is fighting. I tried to talk to him about it but he went in his room and shut the door. Today on the way here he played the music so loud that we couldn't hear each other speak even if we wanted to. His eyes were tired behind his sunglasses and he was uncharacteristically morose.
I'm not sure I've ever seen him this broken up about anything. Ben isn't the kind of person that lets things get to him. He's cool. He's imperturbable. Usually.
"How bad is it?" I ask.
He takes a deep breath.
"If I were Angela, I would probably stay at camp indefinitely."
"It was just a kiss," I say. "Is it that big of a deal?"
He turns to me. "Is that what she told you?"
I can't answer. I just stare at him with my mouth open like an idiot.
"What do you mean? What did they do?" I ask.
He just raises his eyebrows and I go back to staring at the river, not even trying to hide my shock.
"They had sex?"
"Yeah," Edward says, slowly. "Did she seriously not tell you?"
I shake my head. My best friend lost her virginity and didn't tell me. My best friend lost her virginity to my brother, who cheated on his long-time girlfriend with her.
"Have you ever cheated on someone?" I ask.
"No." I can tell he's being sincere.
I'm about to respond when someone yells behind us. Rose is storming up the path toward the cars and Ben is just standing there, looking more pathetic than I've ever seen him. He doesn't see Jasper until it's too late. His fist connects with Ben's chin and Edward is up and across the beach faster than I can even get to my feet.
The fight ends before it really starts. Ben doesn't retaliate. He just takes two hits to the face and leaves before I can get him ice.
I try to give Jasper the cup of ice from the cooler for his hand but he just glares at me. A lock of hair hangs down on his forehead and somehow that's more disturbing than watching him punch my brother. Jasper is always reserved, and even when he's angry it comes out in a controlled manner. He seems kind of unhinged right now. He steps toward me, speaking in a low voice that gives me chills.
"If you see your piece of shit brother tell him next time I see him he's fucking dead."
Edward steps in between us, a hand on Jasper's chest. "Back off, Jas. She didn't do anything."
Jasper backs away with his hands up, still glaring.
"Let's go," Edward says, pulling me away from Jasper and shooting him a warning look.
He waits for me while I fold my towel, grabbing my backpack before I can and putting it over his shoulder. We walk to his car silently and I look at the empty spot where Ben was parked. I'm not sure what's right. I'm not sure if I should follow him home or if I should leave him alone. Edward makes the decision for me.
"Okay if I make a stop?" he asks. I nod. "We can go back to the river, but Jasper needs to cool off first."
We don't talk. I watch him drive and try to make sense out of the last hour of my life. Jasper's harsh words echo in my head. Angela's half-truths stick in my throat. I feel so naive.
"You good?" he asks, frowning. We're sitting in his driveway, which wraps around a fountain as big as a swimming pool.
I stare out the windshield. "If Ben and Rose aren't okay...then it feels like nothing is okay."
It feels like I'm untethered, like everything got turned on its head and backwards. It all seems complicated and insurmountable. He kills the engine.
"It'll blow over. I promise." He sounds sure.
When he gets out of the car I follow him, through the marble entryway and up the wide staircase. His room is at the end of two long hallways. All of the other doors are shut and I remember that Edward's mom is something of a recluse.
In his room I look at his wall of framed photos while he digs around for something in a drawer. There are pictures of him in various sports uniforms, pictures of him and Ben from Boy Scouts and one of our families from when I was about eight years old.
From the other side of the room I hear the flick of a lighter. He's hitting a pipe that I recognize. I watch him puff on it but when he tries to hand it to me I shake my head.
He gives me a look that makes me walk over and take it out of his hands. I don't know how to do it so he has to show me. The stream of smoke I exhale is dense and I wave my hand in the air to try to dissipate it. He laughs.
"Don't bother. My dad's gone and my mom might as well be."
There's no good way to respond to that, so instead I sit on the edge of his bed. He sits next to me, smoking. I hit it just three times but then I'm so stoned that I can hardly speak.
Or I can, but probably shouldn't.
"I'm just so mad at her."
Edward looks at me. "This may not be what you want to hear right now, but...Ben's the one who has a girlfriend. He's the one who cheated. I mean, it was shitty of her, but it's on him."
I'm stunned silent for a moment. It's rare to hear him speak so seriously. "Right, but-"
"She's gonna get crucified, Bella."
I hate that he's right. Everyone loves Rose. Everyone. It wouldn't take much for her to single-handedly ruin Angela's reputation, if it's not ruined already. The thought of the upcoming school year gives me a knot in my stomach.
"Why'd he do it, do you think?"
Edward shrugs, but he's got an answer. "He was thinking with the wrong head."
I stare at him, eyes narrowed, until I get it. "Seriously, you talk about dicks more than anyone I've ever met."
He laughs and lays back on the bed, one arm behind his head. I do the same and we stare at the ceiling.
"What a weird day," I say.
I can feel him turn and look at me. "Is this weird?" He means the two of us here, right now.
My heart starts to beat a little faster and I think back to the night in the pantry.
"You told me I was pretty."
"You are," he says.
"Shut up," I say.
"You know, that isn't a very nice response to a compliment."
I roll my eyes, but concede. "Fine. Thank you."
Neither of us say anything until we hear a distant crash from somewhere inside this giant house. Another crash and the sound of glass shattering. Edward doesn't move, staring straight up even when I look at him.
"You're really lucky, you know that?"
He doesn't say why and I don't ask. I just nod.
By the time we get back to the river Jasper's gone but there's something hanging in the air that leaves everyone agitated and jumpy. Another fight breaks out down the beach and I catch a ride with Jessica, who is just leaving.
Even though I'm confused and angry and I have a million questions, at this moment I really miss Angela.
I'm on vacation next week and going off the grid so next update will be on the 14th or whenever I get back into the real world! Cabin time. Think Summer of Salt...but like the end part where they're grown-ups with babies. xo