Discovering Zhara: Kissing Benton (Bad Boy Rebels Book 1)

By: Jessica Sorensen
I feel so guilty I might throw up. Wouldn’t that be a great way to start the night? My first time going to a party and I puke my chicken and rice all over the welcome mat. I can hear the gossip on Monday. Did you see Zhara yack her guts out on Friday? No? Well, you should’ve. She looked like an idiot! I might agree with them too. I probably do look pretty idiotic at the moment, climbing the stairs to Benton’s party, pretending I actually belong here.

You could, I think to myself. You’ve never tried so how do you really know for sure?

Despite my semi-optimistic thoughts, I almost turn around. But when I glance over my shoulder, Taylor, one of my closest friends, catches my gaze.

She smiles. “Relax, you’re going to have fun.”

Swallowing hard, I nod and keep marching forward, even when my legs begin to tremble.

“Zhara, stop shaking,” Taylor says, moving up beside me. “You need to chill out. It’s just a party.”

I swallow the massive lump that’s been wedged in my throat ever since I told her I wanted to go to the party. “Sorry. I’m just really nervous.”

She sighs heavily. “You should’ve taken a couple more shots before we left. You’d probably be more chill.”

I shake my head. “No way. I almost puked up the one I had.”

She adjusts the hem of her thin strapped black and pink dress as we near the third floor. “Shots aren’t supposed to taste good, silly.”

I fiddle with the hem of my shirt, feeling self-conscious. Compared to the short dress and four-inch stilettos she’s wearing, my pale pink shorts, white tank top, and gladiator sandals make me feel way underdressed.

“Then why’d we drink them?” I ask, knowing I probably sound dumb.

She shrugs. “That’s what I always do before I go to a party. It’s like my warm up before the big game. You know, like how we stretch before we cheer.”

I nod like I understand, but I don’t. Drinking before partying? So that’s a thing?

God, I’m so clueless. When did I get so completely clueless?

“Don’t worry, you’ll catch on after a party or two,” she assures me, reading the confusion all over my face. “That is, if you go to another one. I was shocked when you said you wanted to come to this one.”

I’m shocked myself. I’ve never been to a party before, at least not a crazy, drinking, famous end of the school year party, like the ones Benton throws. Taylor’s been to her fair share, though, and I’m hoping she can show me the ropes so I don’t seem so out of place. Although most of the time I feel that way anyway, even when I’m with Taylor. We’re completely different from each other and it shows big time.

We haven’t always been that way, though. Back during our freshman year of high school when we first became friends, we had a lot in common. We were both shy and a little naïve, had never had a boyfriend, loved spending Saturday’s watching morning cartoons, and had crushes on most of the varsity football team, even though we knew they were way out of our league. We were so close that sometimes people thought we were sisters. But the end of our sophomore year, Taylor outgrew her shy, naïve, never-had-a-boyfriend phase, and transformed into a fun, popular, flirty, party girl who’s dated most of the varsity team. Me, I’m stuck in the same place. I never go out on weekends, I’m kind of popular I guess, but mostly by association through Taylor. I’ve never kissed a guy. And I’ve been told I can be very dull and boring.

I can’t help who I am, though. When I think about changing, I get so stressed that it feels like a giant elephant is squashing my chest and crushing the oxygen from my lungs. Whenever that happens, my first instinct is to suck in a breath and get the air flowing again. The problem is I’m afraid to take that breath. Afraid that if I open my mouth, I’ll end up screaming until my lungs burst and everyone will see me for who I truly am. A girl who’s lost, frustrated, and confused, instead of the put together, proper, goody two shoes people portray me as. Sometimes I want just do it, take an inhale and exhale and yell, I’m not really as good as everyone thinks! And I don’t want to be!! But then I remember the final words my mom said to me before her and my father died in a car crash.

“Zhara, this isn’t you,” she said after I told her I wanted to make some major changes in my life.

I was almost sixteen years old and felt trapped in a life I didn’t believe I belonged in. I wanted to quit cheerleading, stop focusing on school so much, explore more things, have more fun, be a little reckless for once in my life, like Taylor.

My mom didn’t agree, though.

“I know you might think you need to try new, maybe even crazy things, but I’m afraid a few years down the road, you’ll regret giving up what you have now.” My mom placed her hands on my shoulders and smiled at me. “You’ve always been my good little girl. I love that I can rely on you to talk your brothers and sisters out of doing stupid stuff. That’s who you are, sweetie. And just wait, when you’re going to some major, fancy college, you’ll look back at this moment and be glad you didn’t give everything up.”