I take a big gulp of the drink Kayla handed me. Some kind of punch-and-whatever concoction. I drink it all and set the cup down. Lo returns with a cable for the bass player. The group of boys who were in the front yard come inside too, and the dark-haired one glances at me as they crowd into the room. There are so many people crowding in that I push myself from the chair and move over to a wall. I look at the boys again. Maybe I should make out with one of them, just because. The dark-haired one is sort of cute.
The music is about to start. Lo takes one of the mics. Kayla is in the front of the room, clapping. Dylan holds a guitar, a sky blue Telecaster. Julian just stands there, and the drummer clicks his sticks together.
“Thanks everyone for coming,” Lo says into the mic. She’s holding a basket. “Yes, I’m taking advantage of my parents being gone. We need your support for Bob Marley Lives. They’re going to play a Greenpeace rally in San Francisco and need some travel money. So pass some cash into this basket I’m sending around!”
I take a few dollar bills from my purse and toss them into the basket. I try not to look at my phone to see if Royce has texted me again, but of course I check. No new texts, probably because I didn’t answer his. I sort of wish I’d invited him to the party now.
The music starts, and I listen to a few songs. But I can’t relax or escape my thoughts, and so I make my way to Kayla and tell her I want to go home. She downs the last of her drink, shoots a glance at Dylan playing guitar, and sets the bottle down on the bookshelf next to us. “Come on,” she says, taking my hand and leading me away from the crowd of partygoers surrounding the band. “We need to talk.”
She leads me to the upstairs bathroom. On the way up, I watch a group of guys pushing each other out the front door. The party is starting to get louder and louder. People are yelling drunkenly over the band.
Kayla pulls me inside the bathroom, then closes the door, shutting out most of the sound from the party. “What’s up with you?”
She lifts up her hair, trying to cool down her neck. It’s stuffy inside the bathroom. “I’m not going to lie. This party is getting a little crazy. But I know you. There’s something else going on. You never go to parties, and suddenly, here you are at a party. You like that guy from the hospital, and you’re never interested in anyone, so that’s a big deal, but then you don’t invite him out tonight. And you’ve been really quiet all day.”
My parents warned me not to tell anyone. It’s too dangerous. I know I can trust Kayla though, and I start to tell her, but right then, we hear a banging coming from the first floor.
“Ugh,” Kayla says. “Hold on a sec.” She opens the door and peeks out.
I don’t hear music anymore. “What’s going on?” I ask.
Kayla comes back in. “Lo turned the lights off. Everyone’s quiet. I think the police are here to shut it down,” she says.
“The police!” I panic. “What are we going to do?”
Kayla shuts the door. “I don’t know. I’ll figure out something.”
Oh God. Thoughts of police turning my family over to immigration officers all because I went to a dumb party start spiraling through my imagination. If any of us are caught doing something illegal, we could be kicked out of the country. How could I be so stupid as to come to this stupid party?
“I can’t get caught by the cops!” I say, panicked.
I don’t realize how much I’m raising my voice until Kayla puts her hand over my mouth. “If you don’t stop shouting, they’re going to hear us.” She paces the tiny bathroom floor. We can hear loud knocking from down below. “Okay, I have a plan,” she says.
Kayla opens the bathroom door and pulls me into the hallway. I try to go back to the bathroom, but she drags me along. She’s taller and stronger than I am, and I can’t resist her. “Why are we going out there?”
The knocks are getting louder. “Open up!”
Hiding beside the front door, Lo spots us upstairs and points to the kitchen, gesturing for us to go that way. Kayla pulls at me. “Come on, Jas. I don’t have time to explain. Do you trust me?”
I’m too scared to run from the police, but I trust Kayla more than anyone. Probably even more than my parents right now. She’s been there for everything. The tears after a B minus. The schoolgirl daydreams about our crushes asking us out to winter formals and the prom. Not that I ever got to go, of course. I wasn’t allowed. My parents are too protective—they wouldn’t even let me go to the junior prom. Kayla went, of course.
Before I have a chance to respond, she pulls me down the stairs. The band’s instruments are lying on the floor, which is littered with empty red cups and crushed cans. We pass through the living room to the kitchen, where through the window I spot partygoers hopping over the back fence and fleeing through Lo’s side gate.
“Let’s get out of here,” Kayla says.
“But you can’t drive,” I whisper. “You’ve been drinking.”
Kayla puts her arm around my shoulders. It’s supposed to be calming, but I feel anything but calm. “I had two light beers,” she says. “I get more buzzed off my grandma’s rum cake on Christmas Eve.”
“I just want to be safe,” I say.
Kayla can tell I won’t budge. “Fine,” she says, shrugging her shoulders. “If you had your license this wouldn’t be a problem...”
“This isn’t my fault. I didn’t call the cops.”
She takes her phone out of her purse and taps on the screen.
“Are you texting your mom?”
“For real?” Kayla asks. “Of course not.”
She extends her forearm, showing me Dylan’s number next to a silly smiley face scribbled on her skin. I guess boys are never really as grown-up as they might seem. We start giggling a little, then catch ourselves.
The knocking finally subsides and Lo returns to the kitchen. “Where’s Julian? It’s not even the cops. Just one of my cranky neighbors. I doubt they’ll actually send police out here for a stupid noise complaint.”
I exhale. “Oh man, everyone must have assumed...”
“That the cops were here. Yeah, I know,” Lo says, finishing my sentence. I expect Lo to get mad that her boyfriend ditched her, but she just looks disappointed. “It’s ruined anyway. No one’s coming back.”
“That’s not true,” I say, even though she’s right, the party’s over.
“Thanks for coming, Jas. I’m sorry it went down this way.”
I give her a hug. “Thanks, Lo. We can help you clean...”
Lo waves me off. “That’s okay. My parents won’t be back until the end of the weekend. Do you guys have a ride home?”
Kayla looks down at her phone. “I texted Dylan. He’s going to drop us off at my place.”
“That was fast,” Lo says.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” says Kayla.
Sensing tension building between them, I try to end the conversation. “We don’t want to keep you up. Let’s wait outside, Kayla.”
“He’s outside anyway,” Kayla says.
Lo crosses her arms. “Is Julian with him?”
“How should I know?” Kayla asks, pushing past Lo toward the front door. I give Lo a little wave to say I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s up between her and Kayla. I didn’t think Lo was the territorial type.