FOUR

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"Get to the damn point."

"You're rude."

"Did you or did you not?

"Did I or did I not what?"

"Do I have to spell it out for you? Did you or did you not fuck him?"

I blink innocently. "That's really crude."

"Did you?" she asks tersely.

Someone's impatient today. "Why are you so aggressive? And so what? What if I did?"

She gasps.

I find this very funny. "No, really. But he was tiny. Like, really tiny. Can you imagine?"

She's so close to going into cardiac arrest. Is there a doctor around?

"By the way," I whisper, "he has a thing for girls on top."

She pales. "Fucking hell."

I sigh, watching her denouement, and decide whether or not I'm being too mean. Then I mess it all up by cracking up.

"Oh, Rose," I say in between gasps.

She hits me.

I yelp. "Jesus, you're so violent!"

"You almost had me!"

"You should have seen your face!" I start giggling again, so hard that my sides hurt, goodness.

"You scared me for a sec."

I scowl. "Why? Besides, all that happened in a moment of weakness."

"Drunkenness," she corrects me.

"I would never fuck him. That's disgusting." This was very true up until that hot kiss.

And I can tell that she's not convinced. But she doesn't point it out, just like I don't when she lies aloud. We have a system.

Rolling her eyes, she waves Jasper over. "Anyway, are you still throwing a pool party? What's the deal?"

I ignore the turning of my stomach. "It's happening. This Saturday."

"Saturday? But Friday's the fifth, your birthday."

"I know." I force a playful smile. "We'll be celebrating the second day I turn seventeen."

She seems confused but never asks. "Chill."

"Yeah." I look away. "Chill."

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Rose says hi to Ed.

I don't look at him as he takes a seat in the lunchroom beside me.

I continue to flip through the pages of my history book. I try to appear demure, coy, but I'm not acting like I'm reading. I'm actually reading, but also paying attention to the way he's fixing the cuffs of his shirt.

He accidentally bumps his elbow to my arm.

"My bad," he says.

I don't answer.

"Bella, baby, baby, baby." Jessica skips around the table to give me a sweet hug. "I'm so excited for your birthday!"

"Me too, love," I sigh to her happy whining.

"What are you going to wear?"

"A swimsuit."

"No, really."

"No, really." I clench my eyes close, inhaling. I'm becoming more of a bitch with each passing day. "Sorry. It's a rough week."

She actually looks sad for me. "It's your Ancient Greek class, huh?"

I hesitate. "Mhm. Those damn vocab words."

"Poor baby. It's okay. It's almost Friday." She's murmuring in my ear now, like we're sharing a secret. "But what do you want for your birthday?"

I laugh. "I'm sure anything you give me is more than perfect."

"Aw, you're so sweet! Rose, what are you getting?"

Rose freezes, as she is in the middle of chewing her fries and burger. "It's a surprise."

"Honey," Jess laughs nervously, "you should go easy on the grease."

"She can eat whatever she wants to eat," I say, looking back at my book.

"True that." Jess scans Rose from head to toe, maybe a little jealously. "You have the most perfect body, Rose."

"Shut up." Rose scowls and takes another voracious bite. "It's not like you're hideous."

"But look at me! I have no idea how I'm going to fit into my bikini with all this fat hanging off my ass."

I sigh loudly. "Seriously, Jess, shut up. You're the skinniest one in this table."

Jess is unperturbed. "Are you inviting Mike by any chance?"

"Mike Newton?" That's random. "I'm pretty sure he's on the list. Why?"

I don't know him that well but he's probably invited regardless. Half the people on my guest list are there because their daddies and mommies are important to mine.

"I don't know." She bites her lip. Oh, she's thinking naughty thoughts. "I might want to see him."

Rose and I share a look.

"You into him?" I ask, flipping to another page.

Her voice drops but she speaks excitedly. "Don't judge, but I think it's such a shame. He's gotten so much hotter all of a sudden. I think he's been working out since last winter. It was probably all those layers of clothes that kept us from noticing." She winks. "But I noticed now, so I'm going to have him."

"I noticed."

"Pardon?"

I look up. "I noticed him losing weight."

"Well, you're good at noticing that kind of stuff. I swear, it's just you and me."

I have to hide a smile.

"Actually, no, I saw him getting it on with a girl at the McCarty family charity dinner…"

"No, trust me," I sing, "it's just us."

"I wonder if he's grown a set of abs along with those guns."

"He has."

She's contemplative. "Do you think he's a virgin, Bella?"

"Not since this summer."

She raises an eyebrow. "Who would fuck him?"

"I don't know, Jess. He's gotten hot, like you said."

She nods slowly, thoughtful. "Right. Well! I'm going to grab some salad. Do you want anything?"

I point at my unfinished wrap at my side, and she hops off, waving prettily at Mike when she sees him. She might as well curtsy.

Oh, God. I have to stop insulting her, even if it's in my head. She's a nice girl. She's simple and fun, and makes me feel normal. Even Rose can't do that.

Speaking of Rose. She has her face buried in her arms, shoulders shaking. Laughing. Speaking of not normal.

I smirk. "You're snorting, Rose."

Ed, who's basically been part of our conversation in silence, clears his throat and leaves to get some food as well.

It's Rose smirking now. "I think the senator's son is disgusted by you."

I see his retreating form. "He's not the first."

Maggie walks up and wraps her cute little arm around his waist. He smiles gorgeously down at her and pecks her lips.

I'm not surprised with those two.

"Not the first," I say to myself again.

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Ed's been cleverly avoiding me all week.

It's getting me.

It shouldn't be. Usually it never does, not with other boys anyway. Only, this one's such a bad actor, and I'm noticing. He's an idiot. Every time I see his mouth, I have to resist the urge to stick mine against it. He's such a charmer.

But I don't understand why this one should be any different.

"This football game sucks." Rose is a minute away from leaving, whisking me away with her. She was never a fan of all this, school colors and all. I'm surprised she's even here with me. "If they don't score a touchdown in two minutes, I'm out of here. What time do you have to get home?"

"Five," I answer.

I never took him to be that guy. That guy who hits and runs.

That moment, I don't know why, but somehow Ed looks at me and I look at him. I don't know who's busted. It happened simultaneously, I think, so it's awkward. Before the surprise wears off though, he looks off.

Maggie has her hand on his thigh. She sweeps her perfect hand up and down it, as if claiming property.

I smile inside. I think I owe her an apology. I was straddling her property less than a week ago.

"Nice. Classic jerk move."

"Shut up, Rose." I'm saying that a lot to a lot of people this week.

I intercept a cheesy nacho that's heading toward her mouth just in time, and she barks a complaint.

"Boys, they think they're so special. Unexplainable creatures." She stares at the couple, almost vapidly, as if she hasn't seen anything more pathetic in her life. I'm with her on that. "It's not like we all pine for them after hooking up once."

I don't add anything. I just laugh a bit, hoping that's a smooth enough response.

I've been cleverly avoiding him all week. I hope it's getting him, although it shouldn't be. I don't want him to think I'm that girl. That girl who doesn't let the guy hit and run. Because I'm not. I always let them run.

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"Bella," mom chastises coldly, "stop playing with your food."

I freeze. "Sorry."

And she leaves for work. I doubt it's work. It's seven in the evening.

My brother waits until mom closes the door behind her before he scrapes his food off his plate into the trash. He pillages the cabinets for cookies instead.

I'm pensive, because tomorrow's Friday. "Jasper, do you think mom would be mad if I stayed at Rose's tonight?"

"Probably." Victorious, he pops open a bag. "But why would you? Jared and Kim are going to be here tomorrow morning."

"I know." I hear him but I sweep my light jacket over me, ready to leave. I wasn't asking for permission anyway. "Tell mom I'm going to be late tonight."

"Gotcha. Happy early seventeenth, then."

I'm pleased and I show it in a big smile. "I thought you forgot."

"Give me some credit. You're my favorite sibling."

"You mean 'only.'"

He shrugs. "God gave me no choice."

I'm grinning at this point. "I guess you're stuck with me."

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The band sucks, but it's so loud that I can't even think inside my head, and that's what matters.

It's a small crowd tonight. It's Thursday, after all.

"Nope, nope. Put that shot glass down!" James, Rose's much older occasional fuck buddy, shouts over the roaring people as he clumsily pours out some Smirnoff on a row of shot glasses.

Spectators take them up as soon as they're full.

"What the hell?" My voice drowns in the beat. "Are you serious?"

He smoothly sidles down the bar and snatches the shot out of my hand.

"No!" I groan when he downs the drink himself. "Asshole! I need to get drunk tonight!"

"Five more years to go," he teases me.

I check the time. "Four."

Something must be really funny because he's cracking up. "Does that make a difference?"

"You know what?"

"What, sweetie?"

"I fucking hate you."

He chuckles, eyeing me. "Does Rose know you're here?"

I don't miss how his face goes all expectant. Poor guy. Rose isn't really interested.

"Nah. Just me today."

"I thought so." He pours me water in a shot glass. That's funny. "Play nice."

He leaves for the blonde girl on the other side. Her boobs are way too big for her body, but I don't think they're fake. Maybe it's a mutation.

I close my eyes. I have no idea why I'm in such a criticizing mood nowadays. This has to stop.

Because James is a guy, while he tries to stare down her shirt, I take the opportunity. I bend over the bar and start fumbling in the shelves, in search of whiskey, scotch, just whatever I can get my hands on first. I want to get drunk, damn it.

"I can buy you a drink, if you'd like."

I freeze and smile awkwardly at the guy who spoke.

He's cute. He's definitely smiling what I assume is his sexiest smile, so he catches my attention. He's interested in me.

"No thanks." I smile again, simpering. "I'm friends with the bartender. He can get me a free drink."

"Are you sure? Just a minute ago…" He searches my eyes, amused. "It looked like –"

"Stealing," I finish for him, and shrug. "Borrowing, if I had to choose a different word."

It's interesting, because he looks like the shy, dorky type. I can't imagine just how much it took him to speak to me. That's adorable.

And his socks. I really like the socks. Those socks make up for his unflattering haircut. They're nice designer socks, and a girl likes a man who knows how to match his socks with his clothes.

I steady and make sure my skirt's not riding too low on my ass after having leaned over the bar. The guy is already checking me out though, so I decide he probably saw that I wasn't wearing any underwear. Oh, well.

"Let me buy you a drink," he insists.

"I'm good."

"Please."

He already took out some money.

He's trying too hard. I feel bad.

"Thank you." I grin.

He taps on the shoulder of one of the girl bartenders. She spins, eyeing me because she knows James doesn't pimp out alcohol to me, but concocts something before going somewhere else.

"Here," the guy offers.

I down it in one gulp, and he's impressed. My throat burns. "Thanks."

He leans on his side, elbow perched on the bar. "Name?"

I don't bat an eye. "Jenny."

It gets as silent as it can get in a noisy bar.

His smile spreads slowly. "You're not going to ask my name?"

I hide a smile. "No."

He pouts beautifully. I want to bite the lip.

"All right, all right, if you want to tell me your name so badly." I narrow the distance between our bodies and lean close. "What's your name?"

"Nathan."

"Nathan," I repeat.

"Nathan," he finishes, eyes alight.

Nathan and Jenny talk.

Nathan and Jenny share a few kisses.

"Wanna go somewhere private?" he whispers in my ear.

"Yes." I love predictable guys.

We finish business in his crappy Honda.

At least he's got nice socks.

"Leave your socks on," I say.

"What?" he laughs a little.

"You heard me."

This guy can move. He fucks me like a pro, which is surprising and a little disappointing. He seemed so shy though. I wonder if Ed fucks better.

"How's it?" he whispers.

Looking up at his face, I nod.

He pumps in and out.

"Jesus, you're huge," I almost complain.

"Yeah?" Nathan likes that a lot.

What guy doesn't like it? "Uh huh."

I wonder just how big Edward's dick is. I never did get to see it.

"And you," Nathan sighs, "are hot as hell."

He shouts for Jenny when he comes, but I don't call for Nathan when I do.

I don't waste my time hanging around. It's pointless, and I'm not interested. The appeal has worn off. I quickly slip the clothes back on and get out.

I slam the door behind me, and I'm not too surprised when he doesn't call for me. Again, shame. I guess he's not the shy type after all.

But it does make me wonder if Ed's low enough to try to get me out of my pants, because he certainly didn't try last time.

I wonder why I wonder.

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Poke.

"Jasper, stop."

Poke, poke.

I continue to lie there like a dead man until he starts humming the birthday song. He's not a talented singer, and I'm hung over. It's the worst.

"I said go away."

"Get off your lazy bum, birthday girl."

I fumble for a pillow or stuffed animal to throw, but I can't find either and give up in less than a millisecond. So I slap him. I think I got the face. Good. He had it coming.

He hisses but isn't mad. "Are you hung over?"

I open my eyes. Ah, so bright, so painful. I bet they're bloodshot.

"Where did you get the booze?"

I flip him the birdie.

He pokes again, so, so persistent. "What were you up to all night?"

"Fucking Nathan."

"Right."

A little smile finds my lips. If only he knew.

I roll off the bed and slam into the ground. My lower back hurts. Those damn heels.

I stare up at the ceiling, letting my eyes focus out. I feel nauseated, but I'm not sure if it's the last night's hard liquor or the sex. Maybe I shouldn't have had sex.

"Here." My brother throws me a bottle of something cold – Gatorade – and puts down steamy, cooked spicy ramen noodles on my bedside table.

My hangover remedy.

I'm about to cry because I'm so touched.

"Jasper, I love you so much."

"Don't look at me like that," he laughs and this time throws me a towel. He's about to walk out. "Get showered and clean up before mom gets in here. She's pissed already."

"Why?"

"It's three right now."

"Oh. Shit. I missed school."

"Yep."

I swallow the lump in my throat and reach for the noodles. I gulp down the spicy soup as fast as possible and let my eyes water.

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I put on my best top, paired with my best jeans, and slip into my most expensive heels. I want to look good, confident, strong, untouchable.

I don't take a single step away from my vanity until I'm satisfied with my makeup and hair.

Mom's PISSED. Hurry the fuck down. –J

It surprises me that it doesn't take a lot of effort to make my way into the kitchen. I'm rather energetic, prepared, marching right into the room. As expected, there are four people.

"Oh, Bella." It's Kim. She's overwhelmingly nice as always. She hugs me; I don't hug back. She's gained weight. "You're more beautiful than the last time I saw you! Oh, are you headed out?"

"Yes." I look straight at Renee. "I'm skipping breakfast."

"Except it's four in the afternoon. You sure slept in, sweetie." Without the patronizing tone, her words are already soured. "Where were you last night?"

"Hanging out with friends."

"What friends?"

"Just friends."

"Where?"

"Somewhere."

She purses her lips, her eyes holding a warning. "Sit down. Eat."

"No thanks. I'm supposed to meet up with friends."

"Sit down."

"I said no."

Her mouth tightens into a line.

I'm hardly intimidated. She never scolds me with guests around.

Jasper is anxiously mixing sugar into his coffee like a caffeine addict. He's avoiding meeting eyes with anyone, including me. I would have found this funny if it were any other day.

A familiar laugh colors the room.

It twists my insides, makes me ball my fists.

"Let her be, Renee," Jared says, smiling kindly, proudly at me. "She's only fifteen. Go let her have fun."

"Seventeen."

"Pardon?"

"I'm seventeen."

He chuckles. "I guess I forgot. You're not such a little girl anymore, I see."

We stare each other down.

I don't want to look away.

I want to look away.

But I'm not going to lose. I don't want to.

But he cracks a small smile, and that's all it takes. I can't.

"I'm not eating." I can't eat. I swiftly turn and march off. "I'm not hungry."

His laughter rings in my ear even as I slam the door behind me.

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I miss the reunion dinner.

I'm grounded after today's party even though neither mom nor I believe in being grounded. She knows I'm going to stir up trouble in some way somewhere else.

Today's not going to be that bad. It's my birthday party night, after all. I just have to empty my mind and not think. That usually helps.

I'm not usually this morose anyway.

My body's so cold. I should be warm, because there's a body hovering over me. There's a voice at my ear, uneven breaths too.

I relax my body. My body's cold. I have to forget about being cold. No, I should focus on it being cold.

In my world, a guy's birthday is like Superbowl, a girl's like Christmas. It's like Superbowl because we drink, drink, drink as we watch sports games and play pool all night. It's like Christmas because we party, party, party while we're dressed to a tee.

My birthday has never been my favorite holiday.

But I like partying. Partying's fun.

"Someone's knocking on your door," he tells me. "Go get it. Be done quick."

I stand up and pick up my bikini bottoms from the floor. I put them on quickly.

Unlocking, I pop the door open, just a little. Jasper.

"Since when did you lock your door? Have you seen – you're going to wear that tonight?"

I fidget and concentrate on fixing the clasp of my bikini top. "Problem?"

He gives me that look. That look every older brother in the world has. "Mind wearing a cardigan over that?"

"It's a pool party. Hey, can you check if the clasp is snapped on all right?"

He does. He still doesn't like what he sees.

"I'm kind of busy right now, Jas. What do you want?"

"Have you seen Jared?" His eyes inadvertently land on my foot, which is tapping. He raises an eyebrow.

I stop tapping. "Not since morning."

"Aw, darn it." He grunts, annoyed apparently. "Kim's looking for him. She's got mood swings, and it's driving me crazy."

"It's the baby. So, is that it?"

He frowns. "You okay today? You seem a little off."

We share a long look.

His suddenly hardens. "You're high."

It's not a question.

"Where did you get the weed?"

"I'm not high. Now get out."

He's serious. He sees that I'm being defensive. "Why have you been smoking?"

"I just wanted to relax. Is that a crime? Cut me some slack. It's my birthday." But I'm far from relaxed. I'm tapping again. "Can you leave me alone?"

"Is someone in there?"

"Of course not." I shove him. "Get out!"

I slam the door close.

I am greeted with sudden silence. I wait with bated breath for Jasper to leave, and he does in a minute.

I was half hoping he would continue interrogating.

"Good. Lock the door."

"I don't need you tell me that," I whisper.

"Don't get so cross with me. Come back here."

Numb, I lie back down, so he can consume me all over again.

Today's not going to be that bad.

It's my party tonight. It's my night, and I like partying. Partying's fun.

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"Hey, Swan."

It's Alice.

She nods at her fist behind her back. "Pop it in, girl."

I quickly place the oval on my tongue. I don't care enough to be skeptical. Maybe she's not too bad. We'll see. I don't think this is her attempt to poison me anyway.

"Are you sure this one's good?" Maybe I am a little skeptical.

"It'll get you fucked up." Her eyes flicker to my bikini bottoms, and she fixes the crooked ribbon. That's pretty nice of her. "Promise."

I've swallowed it already. "How long does it take to kick in?"

She glances sharply. She suddenly looks so evil, smirking up at me like that. Oh, maybe she's evil enough to poison me on my birthday, oops.

"Desperate, aren't you?" she simpers. "Rough day?"

"No questions." I thought I told her that when I called up earlier today.

"Are you a regular?" she still asks, not intimidated.

I narrow my eyes. "Get lost."

She shrugs. "Where's your brother?"

I really don't like her. "Upstairs."

"Thanks. Happy birthday. Nice party." She's already unbuttoning her shirt, and it makes me want to puke. Jasper can do so much better. "Oh, text me if you want to smoke with me some time."

I ignore her and head straight to the gazebo by the pool, and the whole way I'm showered with a bunch of birthday wishes as expected. I'm almost shoved into the water by the lacrosse and JROTC boys, but I miraculously dodge them.

It's only been thirty minutes since my pool has been filling up, and I don't think I can get through the rest of the night.

"What's up, Randall." I'm breathless. "I owe you so much for manning the bar. Have you seen Rose?"

"Nah, haven't." He sounds bored. I don't blame him. "Happy birthday."

"Yeah, you said that yesterday. Are you sure you haven't seen her?"

He snorts. "She's kind of hard to miss, you know?"

"Then let me know when she gets here. She'll head straight for the bar." I hesitate, self-conscious. "Can you mix me something real quick? Something strong."

"On its way." He smiles a small one, knowing. "Desperate, aren't you?"

"Why do people keep saying that?"

"I'm sure."

I scowl. "I don't appreciate it."

Cocking an eyebrow, he mixes me something and pushes it to me. "It'll get you nicely fucked up."

He's an evil one too. I down it in a few gulps. It feels like my stomach is melting. "It tastes amazing."

"Tastier the deadlier."

My eyes scan the crowd, still on the thin side because it's early, and idly note my guests.

I know who's here for my birthday and who's here for our parents. Actually, they're all here for our parents.

Jessica's not wasting time getting onto Mike, and the guy looks shy but he's falling for it. Poor guy won't survive her advances. Tyler and Lauren are already rubbing hips against each other; it's only a matter of time. I really like that girl's bangles, but I can't remember her name.

I see Edward on the other side of the pool.

We catch each other's eyes.

"A shot, Randall," I say, eyes still on Edward, his still on me.

The intensity of his stare is staggering. We're checking each other out, wondering what's beneath each other's swimwear, and I can't look away. Pool party was a bad idea.

A glass is placed in between my fingers, and I don't check what it is. I take it, again eyes still on Edward, and it stings promisingly. Bacardi.

Ed smoothly turns his attention back to his friends.

"What was that?" Randall. There's a smirk in his voice.

"You will never mention this to anyone." I'm glaring into the open space and tapping the bar. "When am I going to feel drunk?"

"Calm down, birthday girl. It'll kick in soon enough."

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.

I've been drunk. I've been high. I've been both.

It's a hit or miss with all of them, at least with me. Either I get really happy or really sad. I put my money on being happy tonight. I'm down on luck.

Tonight's not the usual sad either. It's anger.

I regret the pill and the shot and the amazingly sweet cocktail. They reliably fucked me up.

Girls are giggling, and guys are punching each other's backs and hands. They're asking me where they can put the presents. The tech team wants to know how dim I want the lights, and I don't fucking know. The lifeguards tell me the lowly-hung balloons are dangerous to the swimmers, but I don't give a damn. Two guys have slapped my ass. The hot tubs are bloody because of the wine. A girl maliciously poured beer down my chest, and it pisses me off that I'm so drunk that I won't remember her face by morning. Someone's asking me about the cake, and I don't even like cake.

It's too much.

I casually slip past my friends; they're all too drunk to notice. I'm more intoxicated than they think I am, but I know myself. I can concentrate when I want to, walk straight when I want to.

Somehow I end up in the streets, near my driveway, where all our cars are lined up.

I find my car and get in. I start it.

The anger is consuming, and I want rid of it. I push the pedal, abrupt and sure.

My car runs and bounces off the black car in front of me, just like I wanted. The messed-up rear lights up, and the car starts beeping.

I steer back.

And again.

And again.

And one last time.

One more.

Just one more.

The car's properly wrecked, beeping insanely, and I feel accomplished.

With one big breath, I step back out into the open air. I think the night's supposed to be a little chilly but I barely feel it. My body's hot; I'm sweating and breathing in short gasps. I feel possessed. The adrenaline is exhilarating. I could cry. I want to cry.

I need to sit down.

I tuck my head in between my bent knees, breathing, not panicking.

"Remind me never to get on your bad side."

I stop breathing mid-breath before letting it out in a weak laugh. But then I look up and see him and I shouldn't have. I freeze and stare.

Edward Cullen doesn't need an invitation to take a sit next to me against the side of my house.

It's rude, but I can't stop staring, wide eyes and all.

"You smoke?"

"Yep."

The cigarette smoke swirls around him, like mist. The way he keeps the cancer stick tight between his two fingers makes him hotter than he already is.

"I didn't know."

What a flawless face. "No one knows."

The perfect Cullen boy smokes. All the girls want to date him, fuck him, marry him. Some even want his baby.

I don't have anything against smoking, but it's Edward smoking. That's different. That's scandalous. His dad would kill him if he found out.

I smile uncomfortably. "When did you start?"

Ed shrugs. He sucks tight on one end, his cheeks hollowing. He lets go and blows out, his eyes squinting through the bitter smoke.

He's different today. He's more introspective. He seems morose, like me. I wonder what's up, but I don't. I have my problems to handle.

We wait for each other to speak in awkward but weirdly comfortable silence. I'm guessing it's taking time for our intoxicated minds to understand that we're actually talking again after an entire week of doing the opposite.

It's the alcohol, no doubt. We're going to regret talking to each other tomorrow morning. It was a sort of unspoken agreement, pretending like the hook-up never happened, like we don't exist to each other.

"Bad day?" he asks me at last, staring at the ground.

"Bad but not the worst."

"Whose car did you just wreck?" He's smiling.

"Someone's. You don't know him. What about you? Having a bad day?"

He now grins, wide. One eye crinkles more than the other. "Bad but not the worst."

So he's amused. He's also drunk, shirtless and shoeless, slightly damp in the hair.

It's unfair. I'm so attracted to him.

"I think about it," he then says, looking at me, "sometimes."

He doesn't go on, but I know exactly what he's talking about.

It's the alcohol, the high, the lust. I want to reach over and run my hand down his taut stomach, tanned arms. I'm thinking about those shared kisses and breaths and dark, hooded eyes.

We lose judgement. I move slowly to straddle him, and he readily grips my hips. One corner of his mouth goes up a little.

Smug bastard. He was waiting for me to make the first move.

His cigarette is left hanging off the corner of his lips, and he tosses his head back. He groans softly but I've barely touched him. His thumbs draw lazy circles on my pelvis, working me up to insanity.

I guide his hand to the area between my thighs, and his chest rises and falls, controlled. I push his fingers down on the place where I want them the most, and wait.

"Then what are you waiting for?" I whisper.

He's not. His fingers dig in, fabric pushed aside, skimming.

When that's not enough he undoes one side of my bottoms.

I watch what he does, panting unevenly. Two fingers brush up and down my clit, with purpose. The circles slow down, tighten, and they finally plunge into me so slowly and sensually it makes me want to rock back and forth.

And he's watching too, what his fingers are doing, and his lips are parted like mine.

"Do you like that?" he asks, and I know he'd kiss me if it weren't for the cigarette.

My eyelids flutter. I shake, sigh, and come.

I'm on a new high. I hold his face with both my hands and go in to kiss his neck. I reach for his trunks but his hands wrap around my wrists.

When I look up, he's staring off to the side, face impassive.

I raise an eyebrow. "You want to go to my room?"

"No."

I'm laughing, a little confused, a lot annoyed. "What is it then?"

He stays silent, but breaks it. "I'm with Maggie again."

I sit on him, stunned.

He's opening his mouth to say something more but I don't want to hear it.

"Okay." I double-knot my bikini bottoms, not looking at him. "Thanks for getting me off."

I stand tall. Never peeking over my shoulder, I head back toward the pool, poised.

The party's the same as I left it. My friends are still chattering and laughing among themselves. I smile like I'm having a good time when they say hi and happy birthday. It works; they don't notice.

I steal a shot from Jess. She's not happy but doesn't say anything.

Edward enters the party again, a few minutes later, and slips perfectly back into his spot next to his girlfriend. He's being gorgeous and flirty and a boyfriend.

It's scary, really, how he acts like nothing happened.

After once, I never look his way twice. Instead I take a shot every time I'm tempted to. I feel him staring at me occasionally, but fuck that.

It's me playing them, never them me.

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The party is in full swing.

I scan the crowd periodically. With that guy by the pool house, it's going to get messy really soon. Weird, Jessica and Mike are still not getting it on for some reason; it's been hours.

Edward and Maggie are in the corner, talking secretly but intensely with one another. She has her arms crossed, and he's towering over her. Another argument, obviously. Good. No surprise there.

I stare at his face for a minute.

It was more than enough before him.

I don't know what I'm searching for but I search. My eyes linger longer on certain boys, those that are ripped and smile dimpled smiles. Even longer on those who are looking back at me, and I assess and decide.

The pool is all filled up now, and so are the hot tubs. The mini tables have piled-up red plastic cups, and the floor smells like beer. A third of the girls are naked, too drunk to care, and there's a hook-up happening everywhere I look. Teenage debauchery at its finest. I don't think most of them even remember this is a birthday party.

I stare into the pool. I ignore the splashing at my feet.

I wonder what it feels like to drown.

I close my eyes. I'm so drunk. I love it.

It's almost midnight when a sober Rose sashays through the gates. She's not dressed in swimwear – just some spandex short-shorts that cling onto her and a skimpy bandeau that squishes her tits to heavenly goodness. Guys are having trouble checking out both her ass and tits at once. She's a devil.

"I'm guessing you missed the dress code. And you're late. And not even fashionably." Smiling like a drunk, I fumble for a flask. "Here, get drunk quick and sit down."

She drops her purse, takes one quick look at me, and slaps my face, hard. She really, really slaps me.

It stings but I don't say ouch. It feels good, the pain. I almost ask her to do it again.

"Snap out of it, Bella."

She's not even looking at me anymore. She's digging through her purse, actually, so I'm confused.

"Are you talking to me?" I ask. I clench and unclench my jaw, checking. She could have punched me, for all I know.

"Yes, you." She cracks a saucy smile. "No need to flaunt it to your classmates that you're a boring crossfade."

I start laughing and can't stop.

"Is this about Ed?"

I squint my eyes at her. Usually when she says something stupid like that, I get annoyed. Tonight I'm guilty.

Sighing, she tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. She checks me again and undoes her ponytail. She throws the hair tie to me.

"Here, please do something with that poor excuse of a hair. You look like perfect misery."

I'm laughing again. It's not even that funny. "That's the meanest compliment."

"The nicest insult I can give you." She's not pleased with the drunken teenagers around her. She probably came late because she thought there'd be no booze. "I thought you said no open bar."

I shrug. "Don't care anymore."

"Where?"

"Straight ahead."

Smirking, she's gone in a minute, and already checking out the bar and criticizing the poor selection of alcohol to Randall.

She demands something angrily at him. I'm high, so she looks like a cartoon character. It's hilarious.

I survey the area again. The boys too. Disappointing.

I cross my arms and relax into the back of the chair.

The sky spins. Alcohol tastes great. Music sounds incredible. I feel confident. The pool glitters like diamonds. I can't feel my fingers. My face is twitching. I'm depressed. I'm hungry.

I feel like the sky is getting lower and lower, and every minute it's closer to swallowing me whole.

It's a clear night tonight, but I don't see stars.

"Where's Benji? Shouldn't he have fucked you seventeen different ways by now?"

Benji. That motherfucker. He's never here when I need him.

"He's not here." Probably fucking his girlfriend in another state.

"Missing in action." Rose snorts. "How fucking appropriate."

I'm not listening. Lauren, wasted and seeking for attention, misses her balance and falls into the pool, and I'm laughing too hard at it. I don't feel too bad because everyone else is too.

Rose stares at her nails. "Nine o'clock. Emmett's checking you out."

I glance casually to the side. He is.

"You're a very controlled drunk and druggie to begin with, but you're plain creepy today. Feeling destructive?"

Emmett sweeps past behind Rose. I brace myself before I look at her. Her eyes pierce, over that big glass full of pure vodka.

"Where's the chaser?" I ask her.

"That's for pussies."

"Mm."

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I don't know what I'm doing but I call out his name. I sound confident.

He turns, not knowing it's me, and I waste no more breath and pull down his neck for an openmouthed kiss. He drops his lighter and cigarette box. He, too, wastes no breath and reacts quickly.

It's not just my fingers I can't feel anymore. It's also my toes, my lips.

It doesn't hurt when my back hits the wall, and he's coming in, totally and stifling.

It's such a messy kiss, but he's drunk too.

I part, catching my breath. My head swims like crazy.

But then he pulls me back into a kiss, and it's hot that he's desperate. So I forget and just want.

Somehow we end up in the pool house, lights off, chilly because the heater's not on. I manage to sneak a fresh bottle of Bacardi from the gazebo before we disappear inside.

Our knees and palms keep banging on the floorboards, and we're laughing and snickering like fools. One moment, my shoulder knocks off the Bacardi, and I scramble in a moment of panic. Thank God, it's sealed, no spill.

And then we're back to mouth to mouth.

We hush every time the backdoor swings open, making everything loud, and closes, back to quiet.

My left cup slips up, and it's an accident.

We're not laughing anymore. We're breathing hard, harsh, and my heart is about to burst. He can't look away from my exposed breast and sucks on the nipple, gently first, desperately the next. He moans as if he's never sucked on a nipple in his life.

My head no longer swims; it throbs, and everything tilts even when I close my eyes and all is darkness behind closed lids.

My bottoms come off, and that's not an accident.

His hand is between our groins, and I feel him untying his trunks.

Just before he pushes in, I reach for the handle and take two swigs. My eyes water, and my throat sears. The alcohol is strong, just how I like it. Another swig. Another. More. Even more.

Quick, quick, quick.

I cry out when he's in. It doesn't feel that good. I've fucked better. I shouldn't be so picky. I'm too shit-faced to care.

I sigh-moan. "Finally getting what you want, huh, McCarty?"

"You got that right."

I smile, lazy, and take another swig.

The drunkenness before never wore off, so this one is only intensifying the first wave. He's driving in hard and fast; alcohol is kicking in hard and fast. The sex starts to feel slightly better.

Bacardi, so, so reliable.

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A/N: Long time no see! I hope everyone enjoyed this chapter. It took a lot of effort, believe it or not. Please, please drop me a little review and tell me what you liked/didn't like. See you soon! :-)

Sarah