“What kind of partying?” Jake asked.
“Just whatever kind you normally do.”
“All right,” Kristal said, chewing thoughtfully. “We’ll head out to the beachfront at nine. There’s a party going on down there tonight, near one of our favorite bars. A few of our friends are supposed to be there too. You could meet them.”
“We’ll have to buy drinks for you, if you want them,” Jake said.
“That won’t be necessary.” I fetched the passports from my handbag and placed them on the table in front of them, pointing to the dates of birth.
Jake and Kristal’s mouths dropped open.
“These are fake passports?” she gasped.
“Just changed the date on the real ones,” Ben said. “A friend of ours is, uh, very good with things like this.”
They looked at us, stunned.
“Wow,” Kristal said. “I might want to get the phone number of that friend.”
I laughed nervously and changed the subject as we finished eating. Then Ben and I retreated to our rooms for a nap before the party.
The party was only a few minutes away, so we walked. Ben wore a loose shirt and jeans, similar to what Jake was wearing. Kristal wore a miniskirt, a low-cut blouse and thick high heels designed for the sand, while I wore a flowing summer dress and sandals. High heels made my feet ache and I always felt awkward wearing short skirts and dresses. It gave me constant anxiety that a rogue gust of wind might creep up on me, revealing the color of my panties to the world.
“You’re such a dork,” Kristal said, laughing, after I told her.
“Maybe.” I smirked, nudging her in the shoulder. “But at least I’m a comfortable dork.”
Music boomed and lights flashed as we approached the party. Everyone appeared to be young, in their late teens or early twenties. Kristal grabbed my hand and led me deeper into the crowd. I looked around for Ben but I could no longer see even him above the sea of bobbing heads.
Kristal led me until we reached a patch of sand with enough space to breathe. A man came up with a tray of canapés and champagne. I accepted both and thanked him. Kristal just took a glass of champagne.
I finally spotted Ben and Jake approaching us, already holding glasses. My eyes settled on Jake, his white shirt slightly undone at the top. When he made eye contact with me, I hurriedly looked back down at my drink. We stood together awkwardly for a few minutes, sipping from our glasses and glancing around. Eventually I just stared at Ben, since it was more convenient than having to keep thinking of places to look other than Jake. My brother looked down at me and widened his eyes.
“What?” Ben mouthed.
I rolled my eyes and looked down at my toes. Then Kristal moved away from me.
“Well, our friends still haven’t arrived,” she said loudly over the blaring music. “I guess we may as well start without them. Do you want to dance, Ben?”
I couldn’t stop the grin from spreading over across my face as Ben swallowed a mouthful of his drink a little too quickly.
“Yeah,” he said. “Sure.”
He took her hand, following her to an empty spot a few feet away. She started dancing as soon as they reached it, placing her arms around his shoulders and moving her hips to the beat.
Jake cleared his throat next to me.
He looked down at me expectantly, a smile on his lips. He nodded his head toward a spot next to them.
“You want to dance?”
He held out his hand and led me toward a spot near Ben and Kristal. Ben threw me an exaggerated wink as soon as he saw me. I rolled my eyes.
Jake was looking down at me, frowning.
“I-I was just making a face at Ben.”
“Okay,” Jake said, smiling now—though he still looked a little disconcerted. “Because if I’m boring you and you’d rather dance with someone else, just say.”
“No! No. Of course not!” I blurted out the words so quickly it made the situation feel even more awkward.
My cheeks blazed.
I felt uncomfortable dancing. The girls in skimpy dresses all around me were dancing like they’d been born in a club. I felt clumsy and out of place in my flowing dress and brown sandals.
Sandals. What were you thinking, Rose? I was shocked to find myself wishing that I’d borrowed one of Kristal’s short dresses.
I tried to concentrate on the rhythm and beat of the music. But the music felt so foreign to me, it was hard to flow with it. The more I tried, the more I pictured myself as the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz.
Ben and I had been exposed to music aplenty. But not this type of music—club music. Stuff that people our age listened to.
Our father had encouraged Ben and I to take up musical instruments from a young age. I’d played both the harp and piano since I was six years old, while Ben played the piano and guitar. Our dad had taught us both. But our dad’s taste in music was rather old-fashioned, as one would expect from a man born in the fifteenth century.
“They’ve arrived!” Jake shouted over the music, pointing toward a group of girls and boys our age who’d just broken through the crowd. He let go of me and walked toward a tall, skinny blonde girl in a black glittery minidress and heels so high they made my feet ache just looking at them.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and reached down to kiss her on the lips.
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