Someone To Love
LIV: Are you and Jas fighting?
He doesn’t answer. Or doesn’t want to answer the question.
I can barely remember what life was like before her. I do remember that being the only girl in the family was definitely no fun. I love Jasmine. He’d be stupid to do anything to lose her. I’ve always looked up to her, ever since Royce started dating her during their senior year of high school. She’s practically my older sister, with the benefit of not having the same parents.
She’s always encouraging me to pursue art even when my parents tell me they would rather I become a lawyer. “If your parents don’t love your career choice now,” she says, “that doesn’t mean they won’t later. Believe me. My parents haven’t always agreed with my decisions, but they support me. Keep being yourself. Keep dreaming.”
I don’t even know why he’s texting me about this. What do I know about love? It’s not like I’ve been in a long-term relationship—a years-long relationship—like him and Jasmine. I don’t really talk to either of them about their relationship. My heart sinks. I’m finally realizing that maybe that was because they never needed to until now.
Royce still hasn’t answered.
I text Jas, trying to say something that won’t make her think Royce is talking to me about their relationship problems. That would be pretty weird.
LIV: What’s up? We haven’t talked in forever!
JAS: Just studying. Gotta get into med school ;-)
LIV: Always so responsible :-)
JAS: What’s going on? You need something?
LIV: Just your presence! When are we going to hang out?
JAS: Idk. Maybe Christmas?
LIV: That’s so far away!
JAS: It’s my only big break. Can you come up here?
LIV: I’ll ask <3 xoxox
I can’t tell what’s going on. She doesn’t seem any different from normal. If they’re fighting, that’s none of my business anyway. Though the fact that they might be fighting is totally scandalous. They are the perfect couple. Not kidding.
I glance at my phone again for a text from Royce.
Now I’m really starting to worry. What if he’s rallying the troops? Is he going to turn this into a family emergency?
Then I have a worse thought. Maybe Royce came home to talk to our parents—and they’re trying to get him to figure out where I am.
They would kill me if they found out that I was at a high-profile party without permission. I’m trying hard enough to please them with good grades and this whole responsibility act to get them off my back so I have at least a teensy chance of getting them to let me apply to art school instead of a regular university.
I think about texting Antonia to ask her to take me home. I can’t breathe. I mean, seriously, everything is just not right. My hair is pulled back too tight. My dress is uncomfortable.
I’m starting to feel bloated. Fat. Ugly.
Then I see Zach.
He’s wearing a shiny navy suit with a crisp white shirt and thin black tie and talking to a middle-aged gentleman with hip Coke-bottle glasses drinking a highball. Cristina is standing right next to him as she chats with Felicity. Is that Guy LeFeber?
Goose pimples spread up my arms from excitement. If that’s really him, I can’t believe my luck. I have to find a way to talk to him without seeming weird—and without drawing the attention of Cristina and Felicity. But then I have to figure out how to not be awkward around Zach either. How will I figure out whether that’s him or not? Should I walk right up to them? What should I say? Even though I kind of am one, I don’t want to come off like an obsessive fangirl right away.
I don’t even realize I’m staring until Zach looks over and smiles.
Not just in my general direction. At me.
Part of me wants to scream from excitement. The other part of me wants to climb into a deep, dark hole to never be seen again. Keep it together, Liv. You got this.
Trying not to blush, I return his gaze before he looks away to talk to the man again. Wishing Antonia would come back so I can look busy, I watch Zach and try to figure out whether they’re talking to LeFeber or not. Each time I glance at Zach, Cristina, with her dark hair and doe-like eyes, is hanging on to him. More people are starting to dance around them, and I can’t hear what they’re saying. I’m feeling suffocated, staring at my phone then glancing up, trying not to let Cristina notice. Zach’s still glancing back at me, eyes lingering a little too long for it to be chance.
I pretend to be a little embarrassed even though I really feel like I’m going to explode. I want to go up and talk to them, especially to find out whether that’s LeFeber, but I can’t bring myself to approach Zach when he’s standing next to Cristina. She’s started staring me down whenever Zach glances away to talk to someone else.
Cristina says something to the man with the glasses, then he looks at me and laughs. I’m mortified. What are they saying? Is LeFeber laughing at me?
Cristina’s not dumb. She knows Zach’s turned his head my way too many times to be a coincidence. I’m excited—more than I have been in years about any boy—but I’m also nervous. God, where’s Antonia? Or that drink she was supposed to bring?
I could use a rescue right about now.
I shouldn’t have eaten that food with her. I need a release. A burning sensation is creeping up my throat. My insides are trapped, swirling in a storm that I can’t control.
Not now. Not now. Not now.
My plea to my insides isn’t working.
I hold my purse to my stomach to make it feel like there’s a wall between stomach, skin and dress, and I start searching for a staircase, hoping to find an empty bathroom. My stomach cramps become nearly unbearable. I can’t ride out the pain. I need to find a bathroom on this boat. Now.
I finally find the staircase and walk into what feels like a living room. There’s a fireplace, big orange chairs, a couch, doors leading to hallways.
There are people all over down here and they stare at me, thinking I’m drunk, but I don’t care. I just say, “Bathroom?” to the nearest girl.
She points to the left. “That way, honey. You gonna make it?”
The whole ship is caught in a whirlpool, spiraling downward into a tiny hole. Whatever is in me has become a spinning mass that desperately needs out.
I enter one of the stalls, lock the door and dry heave over the toilet. I stick my finger in my throat and gag to make myself throw up. The food comes up easily. A wave of relief washes over me.
When I’m done, I realize someone else has come into the bathroom. I think about waiting her out, but I’ve already flushed and that would just be awkward.
As I open the stall door, I’m mortified to see Cristina. She slips something into her purse and looks into the mirror, wiping her nose. Her gaze flits over to me.
I can’t keep staring like some kind of creep.
I definitely can’t hide back in the stall.
As I exit the stall, Cristina gives me one of those fake smiles, the kind that means I know what you’re doing and you know what I’m doing. Then she pushes past me and leaves the bathroom before I can wash my hands or completely catch my breath.
I might not be able to catch my breath.