New Year's Eve

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'No Lissie?' asks Cricket, looking behind me

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'No Lissie?' asks Cricket, looking behind me.

'She went with James.' I ignore Elodie squirming beside me.

Cricket and Anna-Beth send me strange side glances as I sidle into the backseat of Anna-Beth's car. Next to me, Elodie sits up, a little too straight and still to look casual.

'You look real pretty,' Anna-Beth says, a little too quickly.

'Glowing,' Elodie agrees, biting her lip but not moving.

Cricket spins around from the passenger seat and surveys me as if looking for something.

'Well she don't look no different,' she says, causing Anna-Beth to punch her on her shoulder and Elodie to hush her. 'What?' she says, rubbing her arm. 'She told us she was thinking about going all the way with Finch, and not one of us has received a text about it today.' At this point she pauses long enough to send me a reprimanding glare. 'Somebody had to bring it up!'

'So, did you?' asks Anna-Beth, her eyes as bright as silver buttons.

Feeling my stomach tie back into knots, I nod my head slowly, scared of giving too much away. All three girls shriek and paw at me. Overwhelmed with emotion, all I can do is sit still.

'Well butter my biscuits!' yells Cricket. 'You need to tell us everything. Was it hot and steamy? Or was he just the most romantic guy ever? Oh my god, he's now definitely your boyfriend. Well, I don't know why I said that because of course, he would be. And is it really as painful as people say? And-'

Anna-Beth throws her hand over Cricket's mouth and exhales.' My gosh, girl! Heck knows how much I love you, but sometimes I feel exhausted when I listen to you speak.'

'Take it one step at a time,' Elodie says, taking my shaking hand. 'It's an awful big deal, and Cricket should know better than treating it like a seedy story in a gossip column.'

Her air of calm control brings a hush over the car and all three girls look at me expectantly.

'I think I've made a mistake,' I stammer.

'Ok, well let's start at the beginning then,' Elodie says, squeezing my hand.

By the time I've run through every moment of the last two days, we've pulled over six times for Anna-Beth to rant, and are late.

Cricket - who started taking notes on her phone when we left the Whittinghams' drive - furrows her brow in concentration.

'Maybe he misunderstood what was happening with you and James today, petal,' she offers.


'Bullcrap,' says Anna-Beth, drumming her fingertips on the steering wheel. 'He was off with you during the day too. Something's up.'

'Oh cheers, AB. Thanks for the pep talk.'

As she pulls down a long driveway teeming with parked vehicles, she sighs.

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