"No," she said curtly, and turned away from me.
By the time I got a drink and went to look for her, she'd disappeared. So she's pissed, I thought. That's nothing new, I'll smooth it over in a second. But then Greg Nichols had reappeared, and I didn't want to leave Emily alone with him. It took us twenty minutes to extricate ourselves, at which point I left Emily with some girls she knew and finally went looking for Sophie. I found her on the back porch, smoking, alone.
"Hi," I said, but she ignored me. I took a sip of my beer, looking out over the swimming pool below the deck. It was empty and covered in leaves, a lawn chair parked at the bottom.
"Where's your friend?" she asked me.
"Sophie," I said. "Come on."
"What? It's just a question."
"She's inside," I said. "And she's your friend, too."
"No," she said, snorting. "She's not."
"Why don't you like her?"
"She's a freshman, Annabel. And she's—" She stopped, taking another drag of her cigarette. "Look, if you want to hang out with her, go ahead. I don't."
"I just don't." She turned, looking at me. "What? We don't have to be joined at the hip, you know. You don't have to do everything I do."
"I know that," I said.
"Do you?" She exhaled, a stream of smoke billowing out between us. "Because, really, you've never done anything without me. From the day we met, I'm the one who's gotten all the guys, found out about all the parties. Before you met me, you were just sitting around passing tissues to Ca-larke Rebbolds."
I took another sip from my cup. I hated when Sophie was like this—nasty, all sharp edges. I hated it even more when I thought it was my fault, which clearly this was. "Look," I told her, "I just invited Emily along because she doesn't know anyone."
"She knows you," she said. "And now Greg Nichols."
"I'm not being funny," she told me. "I'm just telling it like it is. I don't like her. If you want to hang out with her, go ahead. I'm not interested." Then she dropped her cigarette on the deck, grinding it out with her boot, turned around, and went inside.
I felt uneasy watching her go, nervous. Like maybe she was right, that without her I really would be nothing. A part of me knew this wasn't true, but there was this small sliver of doubt, nagging like a splinter. With Sophie, it was always all or noth-ing. You were either with her—or, more specifically, following her—or against her. There was no in between. So while being her friend was often hard, being on her bad side would be much, much worse.
I glanced at my watch, realizing Emily had to be home soon, and went to look for her, working my way through the party until I found her talking to a girl from the models. I hung out with them for a while, letting Sophie cool down. By the time we had to leave, I figured her little mood had passed.
When I went to look for her, though, she'd disappeared again. She wasn't outside. Or in the kitchen. Finally I turned down a hallway and spotted her at the other end, opening a door. She saw me, then turned away, slipping inside. I took a deep breath, then headed toward it, knocking twice.
"Sophie," I said. "It's time to go."
No answer. I sighed, crossing my arms over my chest, and stepped closer to the door. "Okay," I said, "I know you're mad at me, but let's just go, and we can talk about it later. All right?"
Still nothing. I looked at my watch again—if we didn't leave soon, Emily would be late for curfew. "Sophie," I said, reaching down for the knob. It wasn't locked, so I turned it, slowly, pushing it open and starting to step inside. "Just—"
I stopped speaking. And walking. Instead, I just stood there, in the half-open door, staring at Sophie, who was leaning against the wall opposite, a boy pressed against her. He had one hand under her shirt, the other moving down her thigh, and his head was ducked down, his lips on her neck. As I jerked back over the threshold, startled, he turned and looked at me. It was Will Cash.
"We're busy," he said, his voice low. His eyes were red, his lips inches from her shoulder.
"I—" I said "—I'm sorry…"
"Go home, Annabel," Sophie told me, moving her hand up into his hair, her fingers moving through where it curled, just barely, over his collar. "Just go home."
I stepped back, shutting the door, and just stood there in the hallway. Will Cash was one of the Perkins Day guys. He played guitar in the band and was a senior that year. While he was cute—very cute, the kind of guy you couldn't help but notice—he also had a reputation for being sort of a jerk, as well as a serial dater, at least in the short term. He was always with one girl or another, but never for long. Sophie, for her part, preferred jocks and clean-cut types and hated anyone even slightly alternative. Clearly, though, she was making an exception. At least for the time being.
That night, I tried to call her several times, but she never answered. The next day, around noon, when she finally called me, she didn't even mention Emily or what had happened between us. All she wanted to talk about was Will Cash.
"He's amazing," she told me. She'd given me the barest of details before announcing she was coming over, as if this subject was too big for a simple phone discussion. Now, she was sitting on my bed, flipping through an old Vogue. "He knows everybody, he's this amazing guitar player, and he's so freaking smart. Not to mention sexy. I could have kissed him all night long."
"You looked happy," I said.
"I was. I am," she said, turning a page and leaning in to examine a shoe ad. "He is just what I need right now."
"So," I said, keeping Will's hit-and-run reputation in mind, "you're gonna see him again?"
"Of course," she said, like this was a stupid question. "Tonight. The band's playing at Bendo."
She sighed, reaching up to pull her hair back behind her neck with one hand. "It's a club, over on Finley?" she said. "Come on, Annabel, you have to have heard of Bendo."
"Oh," I said, although I hadn't. "Yeah."
"They go on at ten," she said, flipping another page. "You can come, if you want."
She wasn't looking at me as she asked this, and her voice was flat, no intonation. "No," I said. "I can't. I have to be up early tomorrow."
"Suit yourself," she said.