Margaret walked into the room, the blender pitcher in her hand. “Margaret knows what?”
“Nothing,” I said, giving Jenn a hard look. “Never mind.”
The next half hour was consumed by Margaret giving Jenn what she called “the express makeover,” which consisted of putting on a more low-cut shirt, adding some jewelry, and layering on several coats of mascara. Margaret changed as well, into a dress she’d packed in her overnight bag. Clearly, she’d been anticipating a wardrobe transition, unlike the rest of us. Meanwhile, they both continued downing drinks, getting more and more sloppy. On the upside, neither noticed that Meredith and I had switched to water. At nine thirty, about when the guys were expected, Meredith bailed.
“Party pooper!” Margaret called out from the kitchen, where she was “giving needed volume” to Jenn’s hair, a practice that apparently required clouds of hair spray.
“Buzzkill!” Jenn chimed in.
“I have a meet tomorrow afternoon,” Meredith said quietly to me, like I was the one who needed a reason. “And this . . . is weird.”
“Seconded,” I said, holding up my water.
She held hers against it, then smiled. “Are you staying the night?”
“I don’t really want to leave her here like this.”
Meredith glanced back at the kitchen, where Jenn, I noticed, was suddenly looking a little queasy. Uh-oh. “You’re a good friend, Sydney.”
“So are you.” I reached forward, giving her a hug. “Good luck tomorrow.”
She waved toward the kitchen, but only Margaret waved back. Once the door was shut behind her, I went to check on Jenn.
“You okay?” I asked her. “You don’t look so good.”
“She’s fine. She just needs to eat something,” Margaret said, although I saw Jenn wince, hearing this. “Let’s order pizza. What’s the number for that place you like, Jenn?”
“They don’t deliver,” Jenn mumbled, then got up off the bar stool, putting out a hand to steady herself. “I’m . . . I’m going to go to the bathroom.”
She made her way across the room, using the wall for support. Margaret watched her go, then took a sip of her drink. “She’ll be fine,” she told me. “A quick puke is like hitting the reset button.”
I watched as she picked up a compact, looking at her own face. Then I said, “She doesn’t drink, just so you know.”
“Her empty glass says otherwise,” she replied, scooping out a bit of gloss on her fingertip. She ran it across her lips, then looked at me. “Look, when I showed up with the rum, she wasn’t exactly protesting.”
“She probably just wanted to impress you.”
“You can read her mind now?”
“I’m her best friend. I’ve known her since we were in preschool.”
“Well, then you’re aware that she’s a girl who can make her own choices,” she said, shutting the compact with a click. “Go check on her, will you? I’m going to order some food so we have something here for the guys when they come.”
She then picked up her phone, indicating the conversation was over. I could feel my temper rising as I walked down the hallway to the powder room, inside which I could hear Jenn retching. I knocked lightly on the door, then pushed it open. “Hey. It’s me.”
Jenn was huddled over the toilet, resting her head on one arm. She looked awfully pale, and the room smelled strongly of coconut. Ugh. “I’m dying,” she moaned. “I’m going to die on my birthday. Which is really symmetrical, but unfortunate.”
I smiled. This was my Jenn. “You’re not dying. You’re just drunk.”
“I feel awful.” She turned to look at me. Damp strands of hair stuck to her forehead. So much for the added volume. “Do you hate me?”
“Of course not.” I picked up the hand towel from next to the sink, then soaked it in cold water. “Why would I?”
“Because I brought up Peyton. And made you drink.”
“You didn’t make me do anything.” I handed her the towel. “Put this on your face. It’ll help.”
She did, and I slid down to sit against the door, my knees to my chest.
“You don’t like Margaret,” she said finally. It wasn’t a question.
“I don’t know her,” I replied, sidestepping it anyway.
“She’s really nice, Syd, I swear! And so funny! And, you know, not from here. She doesn’t see me the way everyone else does. She thinks I could date Chris McMichaels. And drink piña coladas. And . . . be different. You know?”
I nodded. I did understand, in my own way. Not the boy or drinking part, but the clean slate that came with a new friend. “I miss you,” I said, feeling bad about even thinking this while I was with her.
“I miss you, too.” She looked at me again. “Will you stay tonight? I know you weren’t planning to.”
“Sure,” I said. “Let me just make sure it’s okay.”
My mom answered on the second ring, and she sounded upset. At first, I thought this might be because I was calling so close to curfew and she assumed I was angling for an extension. But I found out soon enough that, once again, it had nothing to do with me.
“You may as well,” she said, once I asked if I could stay. “Since we’re not going to Lincoln tomorrow.”
I blinked, surprised. “We’re not?”
Silence. Then, “Your brother apparently has had his visiting privileges rescinded. Of course, I can’t find out why, despite multiple efforts to contact the director of the prison.”