Better off Friends

Page 16


She guided Troy over to the table where we had some old-school board games set out.
Emily’s sister grabbed checkers and brought them over to Danielle’s brother on the other side of the room, where they set up shop.
“Oh, they’re too cool to hang out with their older siblings.” Emily laughed. “I remember being in fifth grade and thinking I was da bomb.”
Troy looked up from the game of Monopoly he was examining. “I don’t know — I think you’re da bomb now.”
Emily threw her head back and let out that exaggerated giggle she did around guys.
Troy scratched his head, leaving his wavy brown hair sticking up in places. His smile was so big, I noticed for the first time that he had a dimple in his right cheek.
But for some reason, I had a feeling it wasn’t the first time Emily had noticed this. After all, he’d been her crush before Levi.
“Oh, you.” Emily swatted at his hand. Then she nervously twisted up her long hair and let it fall back in place. She finally brought her attention back to me. “Do you want to see if anybody else wants to join us or …”
At first, I thought she was trying to get rid of me. But then I realized I was being paranoid. Emily was inviting others to join them, which was something I should’ve been doing. In an effort to be a good hostess, I went over to the sectional where Danielle, Ian, and Trisha were sitting. “Do you guys want to play a game or watch a movie? We still have two hours until midnight. Or I can get you some more food from upstairs.”
“A movie would be cool,” Trisha answered.
“Okay. You guys can pick it out.”
Danielle joined Trisha while she went through the movie selection.
Ian got up. “I think I’ll grab us some more food.”
I went upstairs with him. We heard the parents’ laughter filling the living room. It seemed like they were having a more rockin’ time than we were.
“I can’t believe you made all this food,” Ian said when we got to the kitchen. He took another big helping of the ziti. “It’s so good.”
“Thanks.” I put some more garlic bread in the oven. “I really like doing it.”
“I can tell you this much — you aren’t going to like the food in the cafeteria next year.”
I debated asking him more about high school, but I didn’t want to seem so … young. “I guess I’ll start packing my lunches, then” was the only way I could think to respond.
He took a big forkful of pasta. His dark hair fell in front of his eyes briefly before he whipped his head to the side.
“Yeah, and if you need any advice on what classes to take next year or teachers to avoid, just ask.” He smiled broadly at me, a speck of tomato sauce staining his upper lip.
“Thanks.” I realized I wasn’t adding much to the conversation. I’d apparently forgotten how to talk to guys who weren’t Levi. It wasn’t that I never talked to guys; it was that I never felt compelled to make small talk solely for the sake of small talk.
Ian helped me cut up the bread and we brought some out to the adults, who were all busy having a debate over politics. When we got back down to the basement, we found Danielle and Trisha watching Sixteen Candles.
“I’ve never seen this movie before,” Ian said as he plunked down on the couch next to me.
“It’s a classic,” Trisha told him. “My mom was apparently obsessed with it when she was my age.”
I looked around the room. “Where did Emily and Troy go?”
Danielle took a piece of garlic bread from Ian’s plate. “You didn’t see them? They went upstairs to get something.”
“Oh.” We must’ve missed them when we were in the kitchen.
The four of us sat back and watched Sixteen Candles with occasional commentary on the fashion and the hair.
“You should see this photo of my mom.” Danielle laughed. “She had, like, these tight ringlets in her hair and, like, her bangs stuck up about a foot. She swears it was cool back then, but I don’t know what planet that would be considered anything but a hot mess.”
“At least some decent music came from that time,” Ian offered.
“Yeah,” I agreed as I shut off the movie. I glanced at the clock. “We have fifteen minutes ’til the New Year!”
We turned on the TV to watch the ball drop at Times Square. It was only two years ago that I’d realized they delayed the feed from New York City an hour for the central time zone. Before then I’d thought they redid the ball drop for every time zone. I’d thought that was the coolest, to get to celebrate the New Year four times.
“Okay, seriously. Where are Emily and Troy?” Danielle asked.
I’d almost forgotten about them. “They probably got caught up in the grown-up talk. I’ll go save them.”
I went upstairs and didn’t see them in the kitchen or the living room. I checked the powder room and they weren’t there. I went upstairs and saw that my bedroom door was closed.
Never did it dawn on me that I should’ve knocked. Why would I have knocked on my own door?
“Hey, Em, are you guys —” I froze at what I saw.
Emily and Troy were kissing on my bed.
They both bolted upright. “Oh, hey, we were, um …” Emily bit her lip, probably trying to think of a lie that I’d believe. And I desperately wanted to hear something that would make me think I hadn’t just witnessed my best friend cheating on my other best friend.