“And we’re not?” I asked.
“Is that what you want to do?” Margaret asked me.
“No,” I said. There was something about her tone, the way she raised an eyebrow, that made me say this automatically. “I just didn’t realize . . . Since when do you drink, Jenn?”
She put down her glass, then wiped a hand over her lips. “What do you mean? I’ve drank before.”
“All the time. You know that, Sydney.”
Margaret was watching this exchange, an expression of mild amusement on her face. Over at the island, Meredith picked up her glass and took a sip.
“Okay,” I said, not wanting to point out that I’d known Jenn since preschool and never seen her do anything more than take a parent-approved sip of wine at Christmas dinner. I sniffed my drink. “What’s in this?”
“Oh, just drink it,” Margaret said, flipping her hand at me. “It’ll help you relax.”
I looked at her. “I don’t need to relax.”
She took a big gulp of her own drink. “All I’m saying is that this is a birthday celebration. So let’s have fun, okay?”
“Seconded,” Jenn said, holding out her glass. Margaret did the same before nodding at Meredith, who raised hers as well. Then they all looked at me.
I picked up my glass. “To Jenn. Happy birthday.”
“Happy birthday!” everyone repeated. Clink. Jenn immediately took a big gulp, but Margaret kept her eyes on me, not drinking, as I raised my glass to my mouth, taking a sip. Then she did the same, still watching me.
“Okay,” she said, and smiled. “Now it’s a party.”
* * *
“Just text him. Don’t think about it. Just do it.”
Jenn shook her head, blushing. “I can’t! It’s too weird.”
“Oh, please.” Margaret reached across the couch, grabbing the phone. “I’ll do it, then.”
“Don’t!” Jenn shrieked, lunging at her to get it back. “Oh, my God, Margaret, if you do that I swear I’ll—”
“—thank me forever for hooking you up with the guy you’re crazy about? You’re welcome.” She started typing on the phone with one hand while batting Jenn away with the other. “There. It’s done. Now we wait.”
“I hate you,” Jenn said, but she was grinning, her face flushed. She’d had two drinks, by my count, since I’d arrived.
“Maybe,” Margaret told her. “But when he shows up, you’ll love me.”
The He in question was Chris McMichaels, who apparently my best friend had been madly in love with for ages, although she’d never mentioned it to me. Margaret, however, knew that he sat behind Jenn in World History, often asked her if she could spare paper or a pen, and had recently broken up with his longtime girlfriend, Hannah Riggsbee, leaving him, in Margaret’s words, “ripe for the picking.”
“He probably thinks I’m crazy,” Jenn moaned, putting her head in her hands. “Texting him on a Friday night.”
“If he didn’t want to hear from you, he wouldn’t have given you his number,” Margaret said, topping off each of their glasses.
“That was for a group project!”
Margaret waved her hand. “Details.”
Just then, the phone buzzed. Jenn went for it, but Margaret got there first, scanning the screen. “Well, look at this. He’s around and says he’ll stop by with some friends.”
“What?” Jenn shrieked—the sound was shrill, grating—grabbing the phone. She read the text, then looked up, eyes wide. “You told him we were drinking?”
“You did,” Margaret said. “It’s a party, right?”
“Oh, my God.” Jenn grabbed my arm. “Chris McMichaels may be coming over here? To my house? I don’t know if I can handle this.”
“Of course you can. I’ll make another round.”
With that, Margaret picked up the empty pitcher and turned on her heel, going back into the kitchen. Finally, it was just the three of us.
“Jenn,” I said as she took another sip, “are you sure about this?”
I glanced at Meredith, who looked as hesitant as I felt. “I mean, come on. You don’t drink. And now you have guys coming over?”
She turned to look at me, annoyed. “What is wrong with you tonight?”
“Me?” I said. “You’re the one acting weird.”
“I’m having fun, Sydney. It’s my birthday.”
“I know,” I said. “I’m your best friend, remember?”
“Then why are you being such a buzzkill?” She shook her head, sighing. “Honestly, I’m shocked. With your history, I figured you’d be the last person to be so judgy.”
Across the couch, Meredith’s eyes widened. I forced myself to take a breath before I said, “My history?”
“Your brother,” she said, her voice flat. From the kitchen, the blender began whirring. “I mean, I get it. Maybe you think that if I drink, I’ll end up in jail, too? But I won’t. So just calm down, okay? Have your drink. Relax.”
I didn’t even know what to say to this. She was like a stranger, but with the familiar features and mannerisms I knew as well as my own. I lowered my voice, then said, “I can’t believe you just brought Peyton into this.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh, calm down. It’s not like it’s some big secret. Margaret already knows.”