It was finally that Friday night, and Carson, Meredith, and Olivia were getting ready for Cassie's party at Sophie's house. There was make-up strewn over every piece of furniture and clothes spread out all over Sophie's bed.
So far Sophie hadn't told Carson or Meredith what she knew. She was surprised by how easy it was to trick herself into thinking they were better off not knowing. She knew the truth was she was scared of the possibility of what Olivia said being true. That people never stay friends with the messenger.
"Can I borrow this, Sophie?" Sophie snapped her head towards Carson holding a red peplum dress. "Sure, I wasn't planning on wearing it." Carson smiled and headed for the bathroom to change.
"So I heard Cassie's boyfriend's brothers will be there. Apparently they're his older twin brother. They're tan, blonde, and single." Meredith informed them, winking. Sophie rolled her eyes, while Olivia raised an eyebrow flirtatiously. "Why have you heard of these boys and we haven't?" Olivia questioned. "First of all, Cassie told me. Second of all, they go to college about three hours from here at Bransfield. Which is an all boys university." Meredith said clearly proud of the knowledge she had acquired. "An all boys university?" Olivia shot back. "Yep. So you know they don't have girlfriends in college, at least not the same one." "Have you been scoping out the guest list?" Sophie gently teased Meredith. "Of course I have, why aren't you?"
Sophie thought for a moment. If Meredith was talking about tan, college twins, how serious was she about Mr.Lars? Maybe it was just a one time thing. Maybe there was nothing to be a messenger of. But even if it was a one time thing it didn't change what Mr.Lars had done.
"Oh, you haven't heard? Sophie and my brother are secret lovers." Olivia said. Sophie couldn't help but let out a surprised chuckle. "Olivia!" Sophie exclaimed. Olivia gave a sarcastic shrug.
Carson bounded back into Sophie's room, donning the red peplum dress. "What are y'all making noise about?" Carson asked eagerly. "Apparently Sophie and Ian are an item." Meredith said, plopping down on Sophie's bed. "Oooohh. So are y'all finally official?" Carson teased Sophie. Sophie gingerly touched the beading on her dress that was spread over her bed. "You say 'finally' like we've been dancing around the idea forever." Sophie commented. Carson, Olivia, and Meredith all gave each other a sly glance. "You have!" they said in unison. Sophie turned to face the three of them before she spoke. "We're official , finally." she said, beaming. They all rushed into a big group hug, Sophie teetering slightly. "It's really sweet that you guys are so enthused, but it's not a big deal." Carson crossed her arms and raised her brow at Sophie. "Okay, maybe it's a big deal" Sophie admitted.
The truth was, it was a big deal for Sophie. She liked Ian, more than she had ever allowed herself to like anyone. Being with him made her feel special, beautiful, alive, impulsive, brave, treasured, and safe, all at once. She wanted to say that right then and there, but she didn't. For part of her was afraid if she said those things out loud fate would find out, and that feeling would be gone.
"I'm gonna go change" Sophie said, grabbing her dress from her bed. "Now all we need to do is find y'all boyfriends and we could quadruple date" Carson said once Sophie had ventured into the hall. "Did you forget about yourself?" Meredith questioned. Carson tried not to let her face show that she realized her slip of the tongue. "Well of course! That was a given." Carson covered. "In that case tonight is a great night for window shopping." Meredith said.
"Where did you get your dress, Mere?" Olivia asked, smoothing her own pale green dress. Meredith looked down at her black, one shoulder dress. "I got it at that store in the mall. The new one, called neon. And yes, the irony is not lost on me that I got a black dress there." Olivia nodded with a slight smirk, whereas Carson just shook her head.
Carson grabbed her silver bag from the top of Sophie's dresser. She pulled her cell phone out. One new text message. It was from Lars. He just wanted to see if she could stop by tonight. She shoved the phone back in her bag. She still didn't have the nerve to confront him about the flirty sticky note, or the heart to pretend everything was fine. So instead of hanging at his house making out to the sound of Coppelia on his t.v. and soup simmering on the stove, she avoided him. Every time he asked what she was doing after ballet she had an excuse. Her mom was sick, she had a big test, whatever popped into her head. She hadn't told Sophie about the note yet. She just couldn't tell her knowing she would be thinking 'I told you so', even if she didn't say it. But the truth was, she knew Sophie was right.
"Well, what do y'all think?" Sophie asked the girls as she paraded into her room, wearing a light pink and blue beaded tank dress. "Oh, that's so cute!" Carson gushed. "Very. So you guys ready?" Olivia asked. They all nodded and collected their belongings before trailing out into the hallway. Once Sophie's foot touched the top of the stairs Ted crept out of his room.
"Whoa, why so dressed up girls?" he teased. "A friend's party." Sophie answered, tight-lipped. "Hmmm sounds fun!" he replied. Sophie wasn't sure if he was just trying to get on her nerves, or if he was trying to appear interested in her life. "It should be!" she said, hoping her smile didn't come off too forced.
With that they all continued down the stairs as Ted went back to his room. "You know, your brother's kind of cute" Olivia said coyly. "Oh gosh, Liv!" Sophie exclaimed in disgust as she reached for the doorknob. "Whatever, you're dating my brother."
When the girls arrived at the party it was already dark. A slew of cars engulfed Cassie's yard, music lingered out of the windows. You could barely hear the doorbell chime as Sophie pressed it. The door finally swung open with a tall boy on the other end. Only he didn't look like a boy, he looked much older than any of the girls.
"Hello ladies!" he greeted them suavely. "Hi, we're friends of Cassie's." Sophie spoke up. He nodded in acknowledgement, saying nothing. "And you are?" Carson questioned. "I'm Luke, the boyfriend, slash doorman for tonight." he introduced himself, charmingly. The girls were surprised to find out who he was, given his older appearance. "You're dancers?" he asked. They nodded. "Y'all have the dancer look." None of the girls were quite sure what to say to his last statement, so they didn't say anything at all.
"Can we come in?" Meredith asked. "I guess that would be okay." he replied. Sophie rolled her at his attempt to be funny.
The girls filed into the front of Cassie's living-room as Luke locked the door behind them. Her living-room was fairly crowded, with someone sitting on every piece of furniture in the room, with a few people standing off to the sides. "There's refreshments in the kitchen, Cassie should be here somewhere." he said. He turned to leave the room, then pivoted on his heel.
"You look familiar, have I met you before?" he pointed directly at Olivia. "No, no, I don't believe you have." Olivia stammered. It was the first time the rest of them even noticed that Olivia hadn't made eye-contact once with Luke. "Wait a minute. You were the girl that went missing, weren't you!Wow, imagine all that panic and fuss for nothing. You look perfectly fine. Not a single scratch on that pretty head." he shot back. "I think we'll go find those refreshments." Sophie interjected as she wrapped her arms around Olivia protectively. They sauntered out of the room, leaving Luke standing there. Alone.
"Is that what he calls appropriate small talk?" Sophie asked, astonished. Carson and Meredith leaned back against the freestanding island in Cassie's kitchen. Olivia nervously picked at a hangnail. "Who asks someone at a party about their disappearance?" Carson mused. "I'm just going to assume he has nothing else to talk about." Meredith said, grabbing a glass of punch. "I'd rather just forget about it, there's no sense to make a fuss over that, we're at a party aren't we." Olivia said with a half smile. "What else are you suppose to do?" Sophie reasoned. Carson shrugged noncommittally. "Cheez-it?" Meredith pushed the bowl towards Olivia. Olivia shook her head and ran her hand through her hair. "I'm going to find where I can put my jacket." Olivia said as she walked away. "Suit yourself!" Meredith scooped up a handful.
Two boys along with two girls walked into the kitchen. They were too preoccupied to notice Sophie, Carson, and Meredith scattered around the island. The girls were laughing flirtatiously as the boys illustrated a story about a recent fishing trip. From what Sophie, Carson, and Meredith overheard it wasn't a very exciting story as it was a mind numbing waste of time to listen. Although the boys clearly thought differently.
Sophie, Carson, and Meredith went their separate ways after a few minutes. Meredith headed towards the living-room, Carson towards the front porch, and Sophie slipped out onto the deck.
The air was crisp and cool, the leaves were golden and falling, almost in slow motion. Sophie leaned forward onto the railing and stared out into space. All of a sudden she just wasn't in a party mood. She thought once she got to the party all of the stress, worries, and uncertainty of the past weeks would at least leave her alone for tonight. When would life get back to normal? Would it ever.
Suddenly someone sneaked up behind her unannounced forcing her to jump and turn to face them.
"It's just me!" Ian said, throwing his hands up. Sophie heaved a sigh of relief, her hand clenched to her throat. She fell in him as his arms embraced her. "I didn't mean to startle you, sweetheart." he apologized. He stroked her hair gently as they stood there. She pulled back from him. "You're fine, I'm glad you're here." "What were you doing out here?" "Getting some air." "Can't you get some air inside. I don't like you being out here by yourself." "You don't have to worry about me." "Yes I do. It's my job." Sophie smiled up at him. "If it's your job how should I pay you?" "Perhaps in kisses?"
She wrapped her arms around his neck and brought her lips to his. Maybe normal was overrated she thought. Because being with Ian felt anything but normal.
"How was your day?" she asked. "Not bad, dying to see you tonight, but not bad. What about you?" Sophie pondered the idea of telling him about her encounter with Luke. "It was good, thanks for asking." "Let's go inside, it's getting chilly."
"You look thirsty, let me get you something to drink, babe." Meredith rolled her eyes as she began to open her mouth and decline the pushy guy's offer when Carson swooped in. "Hey Mere, I got punch!" Carson exclaimed, showing off two cups of punch. "Opps, already have some. Thanks though!" Meredith said. The guy just shook his head and turned to a girl in a blue shirt using the same line. "Thank you, I was about to pass out from his aftershave." Meredith quipped. "What are friends for?" " Have you seen Sophie?" "The last I heard she was sucking face with Ian on the deck." "Ooohh, I see. I guess we won't see her again tonight." "Probably not. Don't worry we'll have fun. That is after I make a trip to the ladies room." "Okay, see ya!" Carson wriggled through the people towards the bathroom. Meredith heard something ringing, looked down at the coffee table and saw Carson's clutch. She picked it up, and tried to fish her phone out in time to answer it.
"Hello!" she chirped. "Is this Carson?" the caller asked cautiously. "No, this is her friend Meredith." "Oh." Click. Meredith looked at the phone that read 'call ended'. That was rude, she thought. She decided she would look through Carson's call log to see who the tactless caller might be. Her jaw nearly hit the floor when she saw the number. It was Lars.
Once Carson found Cassie's bathroom upstairs there was already a line of five girls waiting. She decided that she could hold it, but she still wanted to check her make-up. Maybe she could find a mirror in one of the bedrooms. There were about six doors she could see. She tried one but it was just a closet. The next door was locked, so was the one after that. Finally she found an unlocked room. She turned the knob and pushed the door open. She was startled to find someone sobbing on the bed. "Oh, I'm sorry." She quickly turned to go as the person on the bed turned as well. It was Olivia.
"Please don't leave!" Carson slowly crept into the room. Olivia was still shaking quite a bit as Carson sat down on the bed. "What's wrong, Olivia?" "I wanna go home." "Why? We haven't been here that long." Olivia took a forceful gulp before she answered. "I know, but I still want to go home. It's just so many people." Carson hadn't seen Olivia so shaken up since the night they found her. "Well, okay. Why don't you stay here and I'll find Sophie and she'll take you home." Olivia nodded her head in compliance.
Carson hastily left the room to find Sophie. Once she snaked her way through the ever growing line in the hall, she took a quick scan of the living-room from the stairs. No Sophie.
"How could you say that? They haven't won a game all season!" Sophie sat next to Ian as he talked football with one of his buddies, Matt. She couldn't help but feel kinda out of the loop with all the lingo. She wondered if that's how it felt to hear her and her friends talk about dance. "Say what you will, they're still America team." Ian replied. Matt just shook his head as he took a sip of his drink. "I'm going to find Olivia." Sophie said as she got up. Ian squeezed her hand lovingly as she walked off.
"So when are you coming back to the team?" Matt asked. "I don't know, man..." "You are planning on coming back, right?" Ian abruptly looked away. "Come on! You're gonna get rusty before too long." "Hey! I am not rusty." "Then come back to us. I know everything's been crazy with your sister, but giving up something you love won't keep her safe."
Sophie spotted Meredith walking towards her, fuming. "Have you seen Carson?" "No, why?" "I can't even talk about it. Just let me know the minute you do." Meredith started to walk off when she saw Carson coming towards them. "Listen, Soph." Carson began. "No! You listen Carson. Why is Lars calling you?!" Meredith interrogated her. Carson's face went from concern to utter astonishment. "What?" What are you talking about?" Carson replied. "Don't play dumb with me! I know he called you tonight, I answered your phone." Meredith waved Carson's cell inches from her face. Carson tried to get Meredith to talk off to the side but she wouldn't budge. "Meredith, let's not talk so loud, we don't want Lars to get in trouble." "Yeah it might tarnish his rep a bit once people find out he's two-timer."
The other pointe shoe had fallen. Sophie didn't know what to do. All she could do was stare at Carson's bewildered face. "Two-timer?" Carson echoed. "What did I say about playing dumb!" Meredith taunted. People were beginning to stop and look at the three girls. "Hey people are starting to stare." Sophie said, trying to calm them down. They didn't even hear her. "Are you saying you've been seeing Lars?" Carson asked. "Good for you, you put the puzzle together!" "Wait! Why are you mad at me? I should be mad with you! I knew he must have been seeing someone else, I never guessed it was you." "Is that what you think, Car? That he was cheating on you? Don't kid yourself." "I can't believe you're doing this here!" I can't believe you thought you were enough to steal him from me."
It was then that Sophie saw something snap inside Carson. Before she knew it Carson had pushed Meredith to the floor, not an easy feat given Meredith's height. Soon there was about half of Cassie's party watching Carson and Meredith trying to knock the wind out of each other. "Stop!" Sophie cried. She tried to pull them off of each other, and failed. Ian wormed his way through the crowd to get to the girls. Sophie was finally able to pull them off of each other with Ian's help.
It was only once the girls had calmed down for a moment that Ian noticed Olivia talking to someone in the corner. Although it appeared he was doing more of the talking. Sophie followed Ian's gaze to see what it was fixed on. Olivia, and Luke?
Sophie let go of Meredith and hurried to Olivia's side. "Whatever you have to ask her about her disappearance, you can google!" Sophie snared at Luke as she placed herself between him and Olivia. "Sophie, Olivia, is this guy giving you any trouble?" Ian asked rhetorically, his muscular hands on his hips.
"Oh I was just catching up with Liv! We've missed so much time." Luke replied causally, his hand hand caressing Olivia's cheek. Sophie's eyes darted from Luke to Olivia. "How are you suggesting you know my sister?" "Olivia! You mean to tell me you haven't told your brother about us?"
Anyone who was paying attention could have clearly seen the blood draining from Ian, Sophie, and even Olivia's faces. "That's right, we were a secret! Opps." "I thought you were Cassie's boyfriend." "He doesn't know what he's talking about, he's drunk." Olivia piped up. "Hey! I may be drunk, but I do know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about truth. You should try it." Luke shot back, his hand gestures a little more absurd then he realized. Olivia shrunk off to the side. "I don't know who put you up to this, but this is a twisted joke to be playing right now. Whatever you have to talk about can wait until my sister's better." Ian set him straight. Luke cackled to himself. "Better? What is that even? Back to her old self I guess. Her lying, cheating, indecisive, naive' self."
"Luke, what's going on?" Cassie asked suddenly. It was the first time Sophie, Carson, Meredith, and Olivia had seen their host all night. "Hey you don't need to hear all of this." Carson said as she tried to guide Cassie back into the kitchen. Cassie resisted slightly. "Carson's right." Meredith interjected. "No! I have a right to know. Luke, what is this?" Luke took one look at Cassie and his face seemed to soften.
"I'm sorry Cassie, but there's something you all need to know." Luke said, his hands over Cassie's. "You see everyone's been talking about Olivia and Dean and the secret plan to run away together, but no one seems to know why Olivia seemed so eager to leave town." "What are you getting at exactly?" Sophie asked. "Haven't you wondered who she was with?" Luke teased them. A look of disgust passed over Cassie's face, yet no one was sure who it was meant for. "Olivia had a choice, Dean or me. Once Dean-boy bailed, well then the choice was pretty clear. At least it should have been. She had an idea in her head that she was going alone. 'Idea' being the keyword. She thought she could get rid of me."
Before Luke could say anymore Olivia dashed out the front door. "Olivia, where are you going? The party just started." Luke teased. Ian ran after her like a madman, but he wasn't fast enough. When he was out on Cassie's yard Olivia was already in Sophie's car. "How did she get my keys?" Sophie exclaimed, a few steps behind Ian. The rest of the party that witnessed the events were starting to pile out on the porch, including Carson, Meredith, and Cassie. Olivia started the engine. "Let me talk to her." Ian warned before he walked towards Sophie's car.
"This must have been what she was so upset about." Carson muttered to herself. "What are you talking about?" Meredith asked. "That's what I was trying to talk to you guys about. I found Olivia upstairs, crying. She kept saying she wanted to leave."
"Olivia wait!" Ian called out as he got beside the car. He pulled on the passenger side door. Olivia hastily locked the door, backed the car up, and put it in drive. She started to pull forward but misjudged herself and slammed into the oak tree. Sophie ran to Ian's side as he smashed the driver's side window open and unlocked the door. Olivia tumbled out of the car. Sophie gasped, not prepared. "Sophie, go call 911!" Ian told her.
Sophie ran back towards the house as everyone whispered(at least they thought they were) among themselves. "Cassie, where's your house phone?" Sophie asked. Cassie guided Sophie inside. Sophie glanced towards the living-room. No Luke. Soon she was in the kitchen. She picked up the phone and dialed. They picked up on the second ring. She quickly explained what had happened and gave them Cassie's address. They would be there as soon as they could. Sophie placed the phone back on the charger. She let her eyes shut for just a moment. "Oh my gosh!"
Sophie shot back to reality. She could hear someone upstairs sobbing, not from sadness but from pure terror. She ran up the stairs to find Cassie curled up in the hall. "What's wrong?" Cassie pointed towards a door that was slightly open. Sophie pushed it open to find Dean. Motionless.