Escape in You(4)

By: Rachel Schurig

“What’s going on?”

“She hit me,” Big Hair Girl cries, pointing at Ellie with a shaking finger. “That bitch hit me!”

I sigh. We’re not dealing with a smart one here.

Ellie holds up her hand again. The girl flinches, but Ellie doesn’t strike her. “I thought we already covered your big mouth. Should I remind you?”

“You probably deserved it, Stef.”

I look to the guy in the white button down, but it’s not him who has spoken. Someone has joined him and now leans lazily against the doorway to the main hall. This new guy is taller than his friend and dressed all in black. I can't make out his face, but I don't think it’s anyone we know.

Big Hair Girl—or Stef, apparently—sputters at him, but he only laughs. “Give me a break, Stef. You talk shit all the time. Are you seriously surprised someone finally called you on it?”

“Preston.” Her voices takes on a whine, and she turns to the guy in the white shirt. “Are you seriously just going to stand there and do nothing?” She points at Ellie again, but she doesn't make eye contact with her.

I smile. At least she has the good sense to be scared of my friend.

“Is this the kind of person you want at your party?” Stef asks Preston.

“Let’s just drop it,” Preston says. He smiles at one of Stef’s friends, and the girl practically melts. “Jess, babe, why don’t you take Stef into the living room? I’ll have someone bring you girls some beers, okay?”

Jess flashes him what she must think is her most alluring smile as she comes over to take Stef’s arm. She gives Ellie and me a wide berth. I shake my head, marveling at what kind of girl cowers in the corner while her friend gets slapped. I can't fathom not having Ellie’s back in that kind of situation—not that either of us ever needs much help. We may be bitches, but we’re pretty capable bitches.

Stef gives us one last red-rimmed glare but allows herself to be pulled away. The third friend follows them, not looking at us, and Ellie smirks.

“Well,” she says, turning to me. “This party interesting enough for you?”

Before I can respond, Preston joins us. “Sorry about that,” he says. “Stef can be a little bratty.”

“That’s one word for it,” Ellie mutters and turns back to the keg. Now that things have calmed down the line is moving again, and it’s our turn. Ellie reaches for the pump, and holds out her other hand for my plastic cup.

“Here, let me do that,” Preston says. “Least I can do to make up for my friends being so inhospitable.” He takes the cup from her, smiling in a way that makes it clear that he thinks he’s hot shit. I can tell Ellie isn’t impressed by this, but she lets him draw a beer for each of us.

“I’m Preston, by the way,” he says, handing over the cups. He barely spares me a glance.

“Thanks for the beer,” Ellie says and turns away.

“Hey, wait.” He grabs her elbow and she turns back to glare at him, her eyebrows arched. He must be better at reading dangerous situations than Stef is because he immediately drops Ellie’s arm. “Sorry.” His grin turns somewhat sheepish. “I was just hoping to get your name.”

Her eyes rake up and down his figure. His blue jeans are artfully faded—they’re the kind I can just tell cost a fortune—and his white button-down shirt is untucked, with the top three buttons undone to reveal a glimpse of his tanned chest. His blond hair is a little long and carefully mussed with about half a gallon of product. I can tell Ellie’s mentally cataloguing all of these things and coming to the same conclusion I already have. Rich snob. Full of himself. Move on.

“Is this your house?” Ellie asks.

He blinks, seeming surprised. “It is. I’m Preston Barkley.”

Ellie holds his gaze for a moment before rolling her eyes and taking my elbow. “Nice to meet you, Preston.” From the emphasis she puts on his name I can pretty much guess what she’s thinking. “But we need to find our friends. Come on, Zoe.”

“Hey,” he calls, but Ellie ignores him, nudging me toward the door. I peek back and see the guy in black approach him.