"She's fine," I told her.
"She seems upset," she said. "Before you got here, she was barely even speaking to me."
"She'll warm up," I told her. "You know how she is."
We walked through the kitchen and out onto the porch to the keg, which was surrounded by a few older guys. "Hey," one of them, who was tall and thin and smoking a cigarette, said to me. "Let me get you a beer."
"I'm okay," I said, giving him a mild smile as I picked up a cup and filled it myself.
"You two go to Jackson?" another asked Emily, who was standing off to the side, her arms crossed over her chest. She nodded, her eyes on me. "Man, these freshmen get hotter every year."
"We're not freshmen," I said as I turned away from the keg. A curly-headed guy was standing right in front of me now, blocking my path. I said, "Excuse me."
He looked at me for a second before moving aside. "Hard to get, huh?" he said as I stepped past him. "I like that."
I walked back into the kitchen, and Emily followed, shutting the door behind us.
"Those weren't the ones I was talking about earlier," she said quietly.
"I know," I said. "Those guys are at every party."
We started back to Sophie, but a bunch of people had just come in, and the hallway was packed with bodies and noise. I tried to push my way through, only to get stuck about halfway to the living room, with people crammed on all sides of me. I turned my head, looking for Emily, but she'd been waylaid by a loud girl named Helena we knew from the Models who, from the looks of it, was yelling in her ear.
"Excuse me," some girl I didn't recognize snapped as she pushed past me, her elbow cracking against mine. I felt a splash, then looked down to see beer—hers or mine, it was hard to say—running down my leg. Suddenly the hallway seemed even smaller, not to mention hotter. So when a space opened up to my left, I took it, turning into a small alcove under the stairs where I could finally breathe.
I leaned back, pressing myself against the wall, and took a sip of my beer as people continued to push past. I was getting ready to go back into the throng when Will Cash walked by. He glanced over at me, then stopped.
"Hey," he said. Two guys passed him going the other way. One of them reached up, ruffling his hair, and Will made a face. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing," I said. "Just—"
He turned, then ducked under to where I was. There was barely enough room for both of us in the alcove—it was the kind of place for a small table, or maybe a piece of art—but I still tried to move to my left, putting some space between us.
"Hiding out, huh?" he asked. He wasn't smiling as he said this, even though I was pretty sure he meant it as a joke. That was the thing with Will. You just could never tell. Or I couldn't, anyway.
"It just… got a little crazy out there," I said. "Have you, um, caught up with Sophie yet?"
He was still looking at me, that flat gaze, and I felt myself flush again. "Not yet," he said. "How long you guys been here?"
"Oh, I didn't come with them," I replied as Hillary Prescott walked past. When she saw us, she slowed her pace, staring at us for a moment before moving on, disappearing around the corner. "I just got here… I got held up at home."
Will didn't say anything, just kept staring at me.
"You know how it is," I said, taking another gulp of my beer as a bunch of girls passed by, laughing loudly. "Family drama and all that."
I had no idea why I was telling him this, just as I had no idea why I did anything I did around Will Cash. Something about him unsettled me to a point where I felt so tentative that for some reason I compensated by being entirely too open.
"Really," he said now, his voice flat.
I felt my face flush again. "I should go catch up with Sophie," I said. "I'll, um, see you around, I guess."
He nodded. "Yeah," he said. "See you."
I didn't even wait for a break in the crowd, instead just pushing forward, bumping some football player who was passing and following him back toward the kitchen, where I found Emily leaning against the island, her cell phone pressed to her ear.
"Where'd you go?" she asked, flipping it closed and slipping it back into her pocket.
"Nowhere," I said. "Come on."
When we got back to the living room, Sophie was still on the couch, but now she wasn't alone. Will had joined her, and from the looks of it, they were having some sort of argument. Sophie was saying something, her face pinched, while Will seemed to be only half listening, glancing around the room as she talked.
"Better not bug them right now," I said to Emily. "We'll come back. Anyway, I have got to pee. Any idea where the bathroom is?"
"I thought I saw one over there," she said, nodding toward a nearby hallway. "Come on."
There was a bathroom there, but also a line, so we decided to try our luck on the second floor. We were navigating a long hallway when I heard someone yell out my name.
I stopped, then doubled back to an open door we'd just passed to see Michael Kitchens and Nick Lester, two seniors I'd spent all semester suffering through art history with, playing pool.
"See?" Nick said. "I told you I saw Annabel!"
"What do you know," Michael, who was bent over the table about to take a shot, said. "And here I thought you were just hallucinating."
Nick turned around, then put a hand to his heart when he saw me. "No, it's Annabel," he said. "Annabel, Annabel, Annabel Greene."
"You promised when the year was over, you'd let that go," I told him. He'd done some senior project on Poe and had bugged me with this line endlessly. "Remember?"
"No," he said, grinning at me.
Michael took the shot, the balls splitting apart with a clank. "Nick's drunk," he informed us. "Consider yourself warned."
"I'm not drunk," Nick said. "I'm just cheerful."
"Is there a bathroom in here?" I asked. "We've been looking for one everywhere."
"Right over there," Michael told me, nodding across the room.
"Come on," I said to Emily, and she followed me inside. "This is Nick and Michael," I said, handing her my beer. "And this is Emily. I'll be back in a sec, okay?"
She nodded, looking a bit nervous. "Do you play?" Michael asked her, gesturing at the table.