Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard—falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High...that is, until vicious rumors about her and her best friend’s boyfriend started going around. Now Regina’s been “frozen out” and her ex–best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past whom she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn’t come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend...if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don’t break them both first. Tensions grow and the abuse worsens as the final days of senior year march toward an explosive conclusion in this dark new tale from the author of Cracked Up to Be.
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Courtney Summers lives and writes in Canada, where she divides most of her time between a camera, a piano and a word processing program.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
You’re either someone or you’re not.
I was someone. I was Regina Afton. I was Anna Morrison’s best friend. These weren’t small things, and despite what you may think, at the time they were worth keeping my mouth shut for.
Everyone is wasted.
Anna is wasted. Josh is wasted. Marta is wasted. Jeanette is wasted. Bruce is wasted. Donnie’s always wasted. I’m not wasted. I had my turn at the last party, called shotgun in Anna’s Benz after it was over. My head was out the window, the world was spinning. I puked my guts out. It wasn’t fun, but it’s not like there was anything else to do. To night, there’s even less to do than that. To night, I’m the designated driver.
“Okay, okay, just—” Josh fumbles into his pocket and pulls out a little baggie of capsules. He tips one, two, three, four into his palm while Charlie Simmons, a fat, cranky sophomore, waits impatiently. “I have to restock.” He drops the pills into Charlie’s piggy hands. “That’s all I can give you right now, man.”
Charlie sniffs. Fitting: All that Adderall is going up his nose.
“Oh...” Josh’s eyes glaze over. “Forget about it. I like you, Chuck.”
Charlie grins. “Cool. Thanks.”
“Hey, Chuck, you’re paying,“ I say, grabbing his arm. Instant scowl. “Bring the money on Monday.”
“Bitch,“ he mutters.
He stalks off. Payment secured. I only strong-arm Josh’s clientele when Josh gives his merchandise away, which is every time he gets this drunk.
“Jesus, Regina.” He somehow manages to trip over his feet, even though he’s just standing there. He wraps an arm around me. “Show a little respect, huh?”
“Fuck Charlie Simmons.”
He laughs, and the ability to remain upright completely abandons him, forcing all his weight on me. I struggle to keep us standing, casting my gaze around the property for help. The lights are on, the music’s loud, and I spot a few people puking in the topiary, but none of them are my friends.
Josh buries his head into my neck. “You look hot to night.” His blond hair tickles my face, and I push him back. It’s too hot out to be this close. “I mentioned that, right?”
“Let’s go inside,“ I tell him.
He laughs again, like Let’s go inside is code for something it’s not, but I guess he’s right: I guess I look hot to night. Anna loaned me a shirt and skirt, and everything she owns is nice. I want you to look really good for once, Regina. I’ve spent the last seven hours afraid someone’s going to vomit all over me, because I can’t afford to replace the labels I’m wearing.
I help Josh up the path to his front door. He stops abruptly, opens his arms wide, and shouts, “Is everybody having a good time?”
He’s met with scattered applause and cheers that barely make it over the music. He shakes his head ruefully, listing sideways. I wonder what would happen if I just let him fall this time, but he manages to regain his balance without my help.
“We’re graduating in like, eight months,“ he tells me very seriously. “I’m going to Yale. Who will supply these poor kids while I’m gone?”
I roll my eyes and right him for the thousandth time, forcing him into the house, where it’s a different kind of party-chaos—quieter, but just as corrupt. Music filters in from outside, clashing with the music playing inside. Four seniors are toking up at the kitchen table. Drinking games. People making out in the living room. It’s boring—it always is—but it’s all there is. I just wish I was trashed enough to be able to pretend to enjoy it. I hate being designated driver. It was Kara’s turn this time, but she’s at home, sick.
“Are we going upstairs?” Josh asks when we reach the stairs. Before I can answer, he crumples onto the steps in a heap, too heavy for me to pick up. He rolls onto his back and blinks twice, struggling to focus. “Is this my bedroom?”
“Yes,“ I lie.
I bend down and kiss his cheek.
The smoke wafting in from the kitchen is giving me a headache, or maybe it’s the music—I don’t know. I lean against the wall and check my watch. It’s officially Too Late, but Anna says the designated driver doesn’t get to decide when the party is over; everyone else gets to decide when they’re over the party. And Anna—I lost her an hour ago. Her face was as red as her hair, and she was slobbering all over Donnie.
Jeanette lurches up from out of nowhere looking like a guarantied good time. Strung out. I can never tell when she’s over the party; the party’s usually all over her.
“I’m leaving,“ she declares. “With Henry.”
“Is Henry sober?”
“Yes, he is,“ Henry says in my ear, startling me. He grins and points to Josh, sprawled out on the stairs. “You can’t just leave him there.”
I ignore him and turn to her. “Where’s Marta?”
“Waiting in the car.” She brushes her hair out of her eyes. “We’re dropping her off at her house, and then me and Henry are going back to his place.”
“Is Henry sober?”
“I’m right here,“ Henry says, annoyed. “And you already asked that.”
“Do you really want to go to his place?” I ask Jeanette. Another of my duties as designated driver. If I can’t prevent an undesirable drunken hookup, then why bother being here sober in the first place? Jeanette grins and nods.
“You know, I’m in the circle,“ Henry points out. “I get an automatic pass.”
“But you’re kind of an asshole,“ I tell him.
He smirks and laces his fingers through Jeanette’s. They amble through the smoke. He glances back at me once. “Have fun babysitting, Afton.”
Josh on the stairs. Marta in the car. Henry taking her home. Henry taking Jeanette back to his place. I don’t care about Bruce, so that just leaves Anna and Donnie. I know they’re in the den. They always end up in the den if Josh and I don’t get there first. The den is off-limits.
But we’re in the circle.
I bypass the living-room festivities, open the door to the den, step inside, and close it behind me. The party noises fade and the room is dim, moonlight slivering in through the curtain drawn over the glass doors that lead to the backyard. I close my eyes briefly, inhaling slowly, letting the semiquiet of it all kill my headache.
When I open my eyes, I spot Anna at one end of the room. She’s curled up on the couch, a picture of six shots of Jack chased with one Heineken too many. She drinks too much around Donnie, desperate to keep up with him, like the difference between him staying with her and leaving her is her blood-alcohol level.
“I need a girlfriend who can hold her liquor,“ he says.
Maybe it is. Donnie’s lounging in the chair at the opposite end of the room, looking as half awake as he always does. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to talk Anna out of him. He has a convertible.
She’d kill me if I left her here like this, so I lean over her ear and say her name, loud and sharp: “Anna.” She doesn’t move. I pull on her arm, tap her face, shake her. Nothing. I make my way over to the pitcher of water sitting on the end table beside Donnie.
“Help me get her to the car,“ I say.
He stares at me. “Why? Where are you going?”
“What about me? I’m in no condition to get myself back to my place.”
“I don’t care what happens to you. I’m going home and I’m taking Anna with me.” I grab the water and pour a glass, cross the room, and try to get her upright enough to take a sip, somehow. “Anna, come on...”
She flops back on the couch. I rub my forehead—my headache’s returning—and make my way back to Donnie with the glass.
“Would you give me a hand?” He stares at me and then grabs my arm. The water sloshes onto the table. “Christ, Donnie.”
He keeps his hand on my arm, and I’m suddenly aware of how much skin Anna’s shirt isn’t covering, but I guess that’s the point.
“Why don’t you care what happens to me?”
He sounds as pathetic as he looks.
“God, you’re drunk.” I step back, but he keeps his hand on my arm. “Just crash here,“ I say. “I’m not driving you home.” He digs his nails into my skin. I yank his hand off me. “Don’t.”
“Don’t,“ he repeats in a soft falsetto, and then he grabs my other arm before I can move, gripping them both so tightly, I know I’ll still feel his fingers tomorrow. He uses me to get to his feet, and then he’s on his feet and he’s close.
I turned him down in the ninth grade. Anna likes to say we’ve been close to hate-fucking ever since, which is too gross for me to even contemplate. It’s a gunshot kind of thing for her to say—a warning. The way she says it, it’s like she can see it happening, and the way she says it lets me know I better not let it happen.
As if I’d ever let Donnie get that close to me, anyway.
Except now he’s that close to me, and I think he’s thinking the wrong things.
He is. He presses his mouth against mine, mashing my lips against my teeth. The inevit...
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