Once I was back home, I realized with horror I had to figure out what I was going to wear tonight. I was not comfortable enough with the whole scenario to make this decision alone. My choices were between Katie and Vincent, and I sure as hell wasn’t asking for his advice. He did not need more fuel to taunt me with. Katie had responded almost immediately to my “emergency” message, saying she would be over as soon as she could. Since it was summer, we still had several hours until dark and could have a Benny free brainstorm session. While I waited for help to arrive, I decided to watch Vincent’s video. I pulled the link up on my phone. As it started to play, I set out pulling everything from my closet that might remotely imply I put effort into my appearance. I needed to go shopping.
“Have you seen any of these girls?” Vincent’s voice come over the speaker. He was narrating a similar explanation to our earlier conversation. Warning his viewers about the disappearances, and the missing persons trends popping up on social media. I looked down as a flash of young faces flickered in the corner of the screen. Each girl was similar in appearance, with blond hair, blue eyes, all very girl-next-door.
“You know, you should lock your front door.” Jessie’s permanently sarcastic voice caused me to jump and nearly drop my phone.
She walked in with a garment bag over her shoulders.
Katie was trailing behind her. “I brought reinforcements,” she offered. Her face was apologetic as she caught my expression.
“Why?” I asked.
“Really? Katie can barely dress herself,” Jessie quipped.
I looked at the bag she was carrying. “What’s in the bag?”
“Outfit choices. I doubt you have anything in your closet salvageable for this purpose.”
I mean, she wasn’t wrong, but… “I’m a little too old to dress like a sixteen-year-old.”
Jessie gave me a droll stare. “I do not buy from fad shops.”
“What’s a fad shop?”
“Mall stores aimed at teenagers,” Katie translated. Okay, then.
“Still, we aren’t exactly the same size.”
“True.” Jessie eyed me up and down. “These are from my sister’s closet.”
“Won’t she mind?”
“I can borrow anything of hers I want. Besides, she’s still off traveling with her friends,” she pouted.
“I don’t know…” I hedged.
“You’re just going to have to trust me.” She unzipped the bag and laid everything out across my comforter.
Jessie eyed her selections, occasionally peering back at me. Then picked up a navy, off the shoulder dress and thrust it at me. “Here.”
I held it up to my body. It already looked too short, and I wasn’t even wearing it yet. “No.”
“You have to at least be willing to try it on.”
I wrinkled my nose up. “Fine.” I should have just called Vincent.
In the bathroom, I wiggled into the tiny tube of fabric. It was extremely soft, but that’s about where my praise ended. The skirt was short enough I wasn’t even sure I could sit comfortably. And I didn’t want to think about how much I’d have to fuss with it once I went to stand back up. There was a good chance I might flash someone in the process. The neckline left absolutely nothing to the imagination, and the cut of the sleeves meant I had limited range of motion with my shoulders. I left the bathroom to rejoin the girls. As I walked back in the room, Katie looked up and dropped her mouth open. “Nice,” she said.
“I’m not wearing this,” I proclaimed, crossing my arms across my chest. The movement made even more cleavage visible and I looked pointedly at Jessie.
“Hunter will love it.” She shrugged.
“Exactly. It’s hard enough enforcing personal space with him. This would not help.”
“What’s the point of the date then?” she asked.
I rolled my eyes. “Just pick something else.”
An hour later, we had finally stopped arguing over what I was going to wear and had finished off most the left-over pastries from Vincent. After about the fourth skintight dress option, I vetoed anything with a skirt. Ultimately, we settled on a black satin tank from the magic bag of clothing, and my own black jeans. The neckline was too low cut to be comfortable, but I almost exclusively owned t-shirts. Which, even I had to agree, weren’t appropriate attire for a first date. Jessie had accepted my refusal to wear a dress in exchange for my willingness to wear make-up. Which, apparently, I was not talented enough to apply myself.
“What would you call your style?” I asked her, inspecting the black lace fabric of her shirt as she smeared some sweet-smelling moisturizer on my face. I had winced the first time she touched me, expecting a reaction even worse than when I came in contact with Katie. But Jessie’s touch was as empty as Vincent.
“Labels are for fascists,” she said, bluntly into my forehead. I looked around her with wide eyes at Katie, who was compressing her lips together to stop from laughing.
After a few minutes, I said, “I appreciate you doing this.”
“Katie asked,” Jessie responded, in a tone that implied I should have known that’s all it would take.
“Still… I didn’t expect you to be supportive of me going out with Hunter. It doesn’t bother you?”
Jessie shrugged. “Hunter is a godlike creature, for sure. And if you fail on this date, I will never let you live it down,” she warned. “But I have plenty of interested parties.”
“I don’t doubt any of those points,” I offered.
She smiled. “I’m going out with Ian and Nathan tonight. They’re competing for the honor of my affections at the moment.”
“Wait, you’re dating both of them… together?” I asked then looked to Katie for confirmation. She shrugged at me as if this was news to her as well.
“I wouldn’t really call it dating,” Jessie said.
Katie chimed in this time. “Jessie doesn’t like relationships.”
“Seriously?” I raised my eyebrows at her as I asked.
She nodded. “Yes. Really, that’s why I’m fine with you and Hunter. I wouldn’t mind doing all sorts of things to him, but he’s the annoyingly monogamous type.” She stuck her tongue out at that last bit.
“And the fact he’s not interested in you, at all, has no bearing on that decision. I’m sure,” Katie said drolly. I couldn’t see the face Jessie made at her, but whatever it was, it had Katie stifling her laughter.
“Wow. Okay.” I wasn’t sure which piece of information I was struggling with more, the part about Hunter, or the part about her. I expected Jessie’s emotions to not match what she was saying, but she was uncharacteristically calm tonight. There was no jealousy or hostility radiating from her at all.
Misunderstanding the confusion on my face, her body language shifted defensively. “What, I’m a girl so obviously I’m not allowed to be comfortable with my sexuality? I don’t like anyone thinking they have ownership of me. Close your eyes,” she demanded, then started brushing something on my lids. “Besides,” she continued, “I’m too young to have any delusions that the person I’m into now is going to be there forever. Better to just enjoy what we are. Less drama that way.”
My opinion of Jessie was rising exponentially as the conversation went on. I hadn’t expected her to have any real substance to her personality. Of course, I wasn’t sure I was convinced that she was avoiding drama. Not after I saw her pitting Ian and Nathan against each other, literally. The image of those two fighting made an alarm go off in my head.
“You all aren’t heading to another one of those parties tonight, are you?” I asked.
“No, there isn’t one set up yet, that I know of.” She gave Katie a pointed look. “Of course, I may not ever know about any of them again.”
Katie did her signature blush and bottom lip bite. “Sorry!”
Jessie sighed. “It’s fine. You just have to promise you’ll refuse to go without me if Ryder invites you.”
I shook my head, causing Jessie to swat at me for moving while she was still working on my face. “Neither of you should be going to those parties. Have you seen all the girls that have gone missing lately? My friend thinks they’re disappearing at your little ragers.”
“What?” Katie gasped.
“Not possible,” replied Jessie.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Hunter knows nearly everyone at those parties. If girls were going missing, he would know,” she said.
My stomach suddenly felt uneasy. “And how well do you really know Hunter?”
“Enough to know he’s not kidnapping anyone, but,” Jessie gave me a wry look, “not as well as you’re going to know him, after tonight.” She handed me a mirror to admire her handiwork. Which I had to admit, looked like a professional had gotten ahold of me from the neck up. I would have been excited about it, but I was realizing my date was probably going to turn into an interrogation. If Hunter knew anything about those missing girls, I needed to know.
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