I nod again. Look at the floor. Watch a girl cross in front of me at a snail’s pace. “Is Zed coming back?” I ask him.
Dan looks around. “Where did he go?”
“To find Steph about my drink.” I lean farther onto the counter. Probably half of my body’s on it at this point. I can’t really tell.
“He did? Hmm, I can help you find him.” He shrugs. “I think I saw him go upstairs.”
“Okay,” I say. I don’t think I like Dan, but I need to find Zed, because my head is getting heavier and heavier.
I follow slowly behind Dan as he pushes through the crowd and heads toward the stairs. The music is amazingly loud now, and I find my head moving slowly back and forth, back and forth as I climb the steps.
“Is he up here?” I ask Dan.
“Yeah. He just went in here, I think.” He nods his head toward the door across the hall.
“That’s Hardin’s room,” I inform him, and he shrugs. “Can I just sit here for a minute? I can’t walk anymore, I think.” My feet feel heavy, but my mind feels like it’s getting sharper, and this makes no sense to me.
“Sure, yeah, you can sit in here.” Dan grabs hold of my arm and leads me into Hardin’s old room. I stumble to the edge of the bed, and memories seem to take shape and swirl in the air around me: Hardin and me sitting on the bed, the same spot I’m in now. I kissed him for the first time. I was so overwhelmed and confused by my growing need to be close to him. My dark boy. That was the first time I got a glimpse of the softer, kinder Hardin. He didn’t stay long, but it was nice to meet him.
“Where’s Hardin?” I ask, looking up at Dan.
An expression crosses his face, then disappears as he chuckles. “Oh, Hardin isn’t here, and you said you were sure he wasn’t coming, remember?” He closes the door and locks it behind him.
What’s going on? My mind reels with the possibilities, but my body feels too heavy to move. I want to lie down, but an alarm is screeching through my head telling me to fight it. Don’t lie down! Keep your eyes open!
“O-open the door,” I say and try to stand, but the room begins to spin.
As if on cue, there’s a knock at the door. Relief floods over me when Dan unlocks the door and it opens to reveal Steph.
“Steph!” I moan. “He’s . . . he’s doing something.” I don’t know how to explain it, but I know he was going to do something.
She looks at Dan, who gives her a sinister smile. Looking back at me, she asks simply, “Doing what?”
“Steph . . .” I call for her again. I need her to help me leave this haunted room.
“Stop whining!” she snaps, and I lose my breath.
“What?” I manage to say.
But Steph just smiles up at Dan while she digs her hand through the bag she’s brought in. When I moan again, she stops and glares at me. “God, do you ever shut up? I’m so sick of hearing you bitch and complain all the damn time.”
My brain isn’t working correctly—Steph can’t be saying these things to me.
She rolls her eyes. “Ugh, and that stupid innocent pout—like give it a fucking rest, already.” After a couple more seconds of digging, she says, “Found it . . . here,” and she hands a small object to Dan.
I almost fade out, but a little beep brings me back to consciousness . . . for at least a few more seconds.
I see a little red light, like a teeny-tiny cherry.
Like the cherry vodka sour. Steph, Dan, Molly, Zed. The party. Oh no.
“What did you do?” I ask her, and she laughs again.
“Didn’t I tell you to stop whining? You’ll be fine,” she groans and walks toward the bed. There’s a camera in Dan’s hand. The red light shows that it’s on.
“G-get away from me,” I try to yell, but it comes out a mere whisper. I try to stand to my feet, but I stumble back to the bed. It’s soft . . . like quicksand.
“I thought you . . .” I begin.
But Steph puts her hands on my shoulders and pushes me back against the mattress. I can’t get back up. “You thought what? I was your friend?” She kneels on the bed, hovering over me. Steph’s fingers grip the bottom of my dress and begin to pull it up my thighs. “You were too busy being a whore going back and forth between Zed and Hardin to realize that I’ve actually always despised you. Don’t you think if I really gave a shit about you I would have told you that Hardin was only dating you to win a bet? Don’t you think a friend would have warned you?”
She’s right, and once again my idiocy is glaringly obvious. The sting of betrayal is multiplied by the fuzziness in my head—and when I look at Steph now, the red-haired devil, her face is twisted, distorted in the most evil way imaginable, and the glow of her dark eyes sends a chill through me.
“Oh, and by the way.” She laughs. “I hope you had fun waiting on Hardin to show up on his birthday. Amazing what I can do with one little text. So a video camera must be so much worse, huh?”
I try to fight her off, but it’s impossible. She easily removes my fingers from where I’ve dug them into her arms and continues pulling on my dress. I close my eyes and imagine Hardin bursting through the door to rescue me, my knight in black armor.
“Hardin will find . . . out,” I threaten weakly.
“Ha ha, yeah—that’s the point. Now stop talking.”
Another knock sounds at the door, and again I pointlessly try to push her off of me.
“Close the door—hurry,” Dan says, and when I crane my neck toward the door, I’m not surprised to find that Molly has joined us.