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To make it sound classier, Tricia Patten called it a Gods and Goddesses party.
Everybody was supposed to show up in togas. A lot of skin and a lot of beer to celebrate the crazy weather, almost eighty degrees in April. Unfortunately, The Avengers was a thing. That’s why half the Aphrodites at Tricia’s lake house that night were getting flirty with a palette of Thors.
“I don’t think this is what Tricia had in mind,” I told my boyfriend, Dave Echols, grabbing his hand and nodding at the mixed-deity crowd as we set up our stage gear.
With a grin, Dave said, “She wanted a party, she got a party,” and leaned over to kiss me.
Dave and I were the intermission entertainment—a local band that would already be at the party when the deejay had to go pick up his mom at work. Usually, we played our own songs. But tonight it would be an hour of funny indie covers of frat rock songs.
As I tested the pickup on my acoustic guitar, I cut a quick look at the crowd. A spotlight seemed to follow me, and not in a good way. Everyone hesitated and ran their eyes down my costume. The best expression was bafflement, but the worst was amusement. I forced a smile and kept setting up.
I hadn’t gotten the memo that a sheet over a regular little black dress was enough of a costume. Geek that I was, I’d raided my sister Ellie’s closet. She danced for the Columbus Repertory Ballet Theater, so she had plenty of bits and pieces that added up to a goddess. A gauze wraparound skirt over a silver-shot leotard. Silver slippers with matching ribbons crisscrossing my legs.
Producing extra ribbon, Ellie threaded it through my thick, dark hair. Alternating white with gold, she plaited and twisted, taming my wild halo. Then, because it was a permanent part of her ballet DNA, she knotted it in a perfect chignon on the top of my head. Pulling tendrils out around my face, she considered the look. After taking a picture with her phone, she declared me ready to rock and sent me on my way.
When I’d left home, I felt good—pretty, even. A little bare, because I never wore my hair up. But good.
That confidence burned away as soon as I stepped onto the temporary stage in front of Tricia’s French doors. The party was packed. A wood dance floor stretched over the pool. Snacks and drinks circulated under a white light-strung arbor. And there I was, the trying-too-hard girl on stage, crazy obvious in front of a sea of sheets and plastic plate mail.
Power-mingling, Tricia buzzed the stage. “You guys are so great. Thank you so much for doing this.”
“Anytime,” Dave said, zeroing in on her.
As soon as he did, Tricia turned her attention to him and him alone. Why shouldn’t she? With his fresh, all-American face, Dave got all kinds of attention. He was the blue-eyed, blond-haired boy next door, wrapped in a flag and carrying Mom’s apple pie. Seriously, at Fourth of July parades, people practically worshipped him. And after our gigs, girls did. By the bucketful, even if they had boyfriends.
It always bothered me when Dave flirted. Even if it meant nothing, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy whenever he turned his attention elsewhere.
Tricia had her own boyfriend—none other than Will Spencer, our high school’s biggest player. Exactly nobody understood how she’d caught him and kept him. Tricia was well-off, gorgeous, and genuinely likable, definitely a catch. She stood apart from other girls, with a mane of copper hair and green eyes clear as glass. But Will had never seemed like the type to settle for one girl. Or ten. Or a hundred. Not when he could have his pick and have them all. Will and Tricia were the senior class’s enduring mystery.
I couldn’t help but wish the enduring mystery would step away from my boyfriend.
“I’m so glad you do private parties,” Tricia purred, clutching Dave’s mic stand.
Dave powered up his amp and smiled. “For you? Anything.”
My heart sank, but I said nothing. Dave flirted with everyone. Everything. Once, I’d seen him wink at a baby, and then a dog. People fawned over him, and he couldn’t help reflecting some of that glow back.
To be fair, he flirted with me, too. When we played, sometimes he’d lean over to murmur in my ear. Between the mics, just loud enough for me to hear: You killed that verse, love the way the lights catch your eyelashes. Things no one else could, or would, ever say to me.
Which meant I had to get over myself and get back to work. Giving my guitar a quick tune, I strummed a few chords—the universal notes for “stop flirting and let’s get this gig started.”
“Later,” Tricia said, and when the crowd surged, she was gone.