What If

By: Rebecca Donovan

Prologue


“Why the hell are we here, Cal?” Rae asks as she hands me a beer. “I didn’t like these people when we were in high school. And I still don’t. Nothing’s changed.”

But something has changed.

I sit on the tailgate of my truck, taking a few gulps, and casually scan the crowd, clustered in the predictable groups they were in when we graduated last year: the athletes, the dramatics, the tokers and, of course, the elites.

They’re why I’m here. Sort of.

“I’m giving this one hour, and then we’re out of here,” Rae declares, taking a sip of her beer. She slowly lowers her cup, staring across the field. “Holy shit. Is Heather Townsend walking over here?”

I look up just as Heather appears in front of me, twisting a strand of blond hair around her finger.

“Hi, Cal. I’m glad you showed up,” she says, wearing a flirtatious smile.

“Hey,” I respond. She takes a step closer, moving between my dangling legs.

“Partying in the woods is so… high school.” She exhales dramatically. “I mean, you’d think we would’ve grown up a little since we left for college.”

“Yeah, but we still have parents who won’t willingly let us drink and trash their houses,” I note. She laughs like I said the funniest thing she’s ever heard.

Rae groans. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Heather leans in so I can feel her breath on my mouth, “I think we’re going to have a fun summer together.”

I swallow, unable to back away any farther without lying down.

“I’m only here for the week,” I tell her. Her lower lip juts out in a sulk. Not attractive.

“Where are you going?” she asks, setting a hand on my knee. My entire body tenses.

“Oregon. I’m working for my uncle for the summer.”

“But you just got here, like… today.”

I hear Rae grumble something under her breath.

“Sorry,” I say with a shrug. “So, umm. Where is everyone? I don’t see Nicole with you guys.”

Heather steps back with a roll of her eyes, crossing her arms. I’ve struck a nerve.

“I don’t know. I guess she thinks she’s better than us now that she’s at Harvard.”

I pry a little more. “Have you heard from her since graduation?” I can feel Rae staring at me.

“Not even a stupid text. I mean, we were her best friends for like… ever. And nothing. Bitch.”

My eyes widen at her hostility.

“Heather.” Vi is standing behind her with her hands on her hips. “The party’s over here.” She nods toward the other elites, all clustered around Kyle’s BMW.

“I’ll be right there,” Heather responds to Vi; then she looks back to me. “Maybe we can do something before you go.”

“Maybe,” I reply, knowing we won’t. Heather turns and walks with Vi back to where she belongs. I slide off the truck and watch them walk away, back to the crowd that never gave us a second glance before today.

I’m forcefully bumped forward by a shoulder and end up spilling beer on my pants.

“Not for you to look at,” Neil Talbert threatens from behind me.

I close my eyes and take a breath to restrain myself, wanting so badly to turn around and punch him in the face. My fist clenches with just the thought of it.

“You’re such a dick,” Rae snaps when I finally face him.

I look past Neil—who’s trying to make himself look bigger, flexing his arms at his sides—to Rae and give her a quick shake of my head.

“Still having girls fight for you,” Neil scoffs. “You really haven’t changed, no matter what you look like.”

I don’t say anything. There’s no point. He’s as much of an ass as he was in high school, and nothing I say will make a difference.

“Neil!” yells some guy from a distance. “Where the hell have you been? We’ve been waiting for the Beam for like an hour. Get over here.”

The tension in my shoulders eases when he starts walking toward his brother’s BMW.

“Cal, I don’t know why you still let him treat you like that. Hell, you’re bigger than he is now. You know you could take him,” she says, still glowering over my shoulder.

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