21. HOT GIRLS—THEY’RE JUST LIKE US!

Hanna took a sip of her vodka lemonade and lit another cigarette. She hadn’t seen Sean since they parked his car on the Kahns’ lawn two hours ago, and even Mona had vanished. Now she was stuck talking to Noel’s best friend, James Freed, Zelda Millings—a beautiful blond girl who only wore clothes and shoes made out of hemp—and a bunch of squeally, cliquey girls from Doringbell Friends, the ultra-hip Quaker school in the next town over. The girls had come to Noel’s party last year and even though Hanna had hung out with them then, she couldn’t remember any of their names.

James stubbed out his Marlboro on the heel of his Adidas shell-tops and took a swig of beer. “I heard Noel’s brother has a ton of pot.”

“Eric?” asked Zelda. “Where’s he at?”

“Photo booth,” James answered.

Suddenly, Sean darted through the pines. Hanna stood up, adjusted her hopefully slimming BCBG slip dress, and tied the straps of her brand-new pale blue Christian Louboutin sandals back around her ankles. As she ran to catch up with him, her heel sunk into the dewy grass. She flailed her arms, dropped her drink, and suddenly she was on her butt.

“And she’s down!” James called out drunkenly. The Doringbell girls all laughed.

Hanna quickly scrambled up, pinching her palm to keep herself from crying. This was the biggest party of the year, but she felt way off her game: Her dress felt snug around her hips, she hadn’t been able to get Sean to crack a smile during the car ride over here—despite the fact that he’d scored his dad’s BMW 760i for the night—and she was on her third calorie-laden vodka lemonade and it was only nine-thirty.

Sean held out his hand to help her up. “Are you okay?”

Hanna hesitated. Sean was dressed in a plain white T-shirt that accentuated his strong-from-soccer chest and flat-from-good-genes stomach, dark blue Paper Denim jeans that made his butt look awesome, and ragged black Pumas. His blondish brown hair was messily styled, his brown eyes looked extra soulful, and his pink lips extra kissable. For the past hour, she’d watched Sean bond with every guy there and carefully avoid her.

“I’m fine,” she said, sticking her lip out in a Hanna-patented pout.

“What’s the matter?”

She tried to balance in her shoes. “Can we…go somewhere private for a while? Maybe the woods? To talk?”

Sean shrugged. “Okay.”

Yes.

Hanna led Sean down a path to the Manhood Woods, the trees casting long, dark shadows across their bodies. The only other time Hanna had ever been here was in seventh grade, when her friends had a secret rendezvous with Noel Kahn and James Freed. Ali made out with Noel, Spencer made out with James, and she, Emily, and Aria sat on logs, shared cigarettes, and miserably waited for them to finish. Tonight, she vowed, would be different.

She sat down on a thick patch of grass and pulled Sean down with her. “You having fun?” She passed her drink to Sean.

“Yeah, it’s cool.” Sean took a small sip. “You?”

Hanna hesitated. Sean’s skin shone in the moonlight. His shirt had a tiny smear of dirt on it near the collar. “I guess.”

All right, chatting time was over. Hanna took the drink out of Sean’s hand and grabbed his sweet, square jaw and started to kiss him. There. It sort of sucked that the world was kind of spinning, and that instead of tasting the inside of Sean’s mouth, she tasted Mike’s Hard Lemonade, but whatever.

After a minute of kissing, she felt Sean pulling away. Maybe this called for upping the ante a little. She hiked up her navy dress, exposing her legs and tiny lavender Cosabella lace thong. The woodsy air was cold. A mosquito landed on her upper thigh.

“Hanna,” Sean said gently, reaching to pull her dress back down. “This isn’t…”

He wasn’t fast enough, though; Hanna had already torn the dress over her head. Sean’s eyes canvassed her whole body. Amazingly, this was only the second time he’d seen her in her underwear—unless you counted the week they spent at his parents’ place in Avalon on the Jersey Shore, when she was in her bikini. But that was different.

“You don’t really want to stop, do you?” She reached toward him, hoping she looked smoldering yet wholesome.

“Yeah.” Sean caught her hand. “I do.”

Hanna wrapped herself up in her dress as best she could. She probably had a hundred mosquito bites already. Her lip trembled. “But…I don’t get it. Don’t you love me?” The words felt very small and frail coming out of her mouth.

Sean took a long time to respond. Hanna heard another couple from the party giggling nearby. “I don’t know,” he answered.

“Jesus,” Hanna said, rolling away from him. The vodka lemonades sloshed in her stomach. “Are you gay?” It came out a little meaner than she meant it to.

“No!” Sean sounded hurt.

“Well then what? Am I not hot enough?”

“Of course not!” Sean said, sounding shocked. He thought for a moment. “You’re one of the prettiest girls I know, Hanna. Why don’t you know that?”

“What are you talking about?” Hanna asked, disgusted.

“I just…,” Sean started. “I just think that maybe if you could have a little more respect for yourself—”

“I have plenty of self-respect!” Hanna shouted at him. She shifted onto her butt, rolling onto a pine cone.

Sean stood up. He looked deflated and sad. “Look at you.” His eyes traveled from her shoes to the top of her head. “I’m just trying to help you, Hanna—I care about you.”

Hanna felt tears gathering at the corners of her eyes and tried to choke them back down. She would not cry right now. “I respect myself,” she repeated. “I just wanted to…to…show you how I feel.”

“I’m just trying to be choosy about sex.” He sounded not kind, but not mean, either. Just…detached. “I want it to be at the right time with the right person. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to be you.” Sean sighed and took a step away from her. “I’m sorry.” Then he pushed through the trees and was gone.

Hanna was so embarrassed and angry, she couldn’t speak. She tried to stand up to follow Sean, but her heel caught again and she fell over. She splayed her arms out and stared up at the stars, holding her thumbs over her eyes, so tears wouldn’t pour out of them.

“She looks like she might puke.”

Hanna opened one eye and saw two freshman boys—most likely crashers—hovering over her as if she were a girl they’d created on their computers.

“Fuck off, pervs,” she said to the ogling freshmen as she stood up. Across the lawn, she could see Sean running after Mason Byers, wielding a yellow croquet mallet. Hanna sniffed as she brushed herself off and headed back toward the party. Didn’t anyone care about her? She thought of the letter she’d gotten yesterday. Even Daddy doesn’t love you best!

Hanna wished, suddenly, that she had her dad’s number, her mind flashing back to that day she’d met her dad and Isabel and Kate with Ali.

Although it had been February, the weather in Annapolis had been freakishly warm, and Hanna, Ali, and Kate had been sitting outside on the porch, trying to get tan. Ali and Kate were bonding over their favorite shades of MAC nail polish, but Hanna couldn’t get into it. She felt heavy and awkward. She’d seen Kate’s relieved expression when she and Ali first emerged from the train—surprise at how gorgeous Ali was, and then relief when she laid eyes on Hanna. It was as if Kate was thinking, Well, I don’t need to worry about her!

Without realizing it, Hanna had eaten the entire bowl of cheese popcorn that was on the table. And six of the profiteroles. And some of the Brie wedge that was meant for Isabel and her dad. She clutched her bloated stomach, gazed at Ali’s and Kate’s flat six-packs, and groaned out loud, without meaning to.

“Little piggy doesn’t feel good?” Hanna’s dad asked, squeezing her small toe.

Hanna shuddered at the memory and touched her now-slim stomach. A—whoever A was—was totally right. Her dad didn’t love her best.

“Everyone in the pond!” Noel shouted, snapping Hanna out of her thoughts.

Across the field, Hanna watched Sean pull off his T-shirt and run toward the water. Noel, James, Mason, and some other boys threw off their shirts, but Hanna didn’t even care. Of all the nights to see Rosewood’s hottest boys without their shirts on…

“They’re all so gorgeous,” murmured Felicity McDowell, who was mixing tequila with Fanta Grape, next to her. “Aren’t they?”

“Mmm,” she muttered.

Hanna ground her teeth together. Fuck her happy father and his perfect soon-to-be stepdaughter, and fuck Sean and his choosiness! She grabbed a bottle of Ketel One from the table and drank straight from it. She put the bottle back down but at the last second decided to bring it to the pond with her. Sean wasn’t going to get away with dumping her, insulting her, and then straight-up ignoring her. No way.

She stopped at a pile of clothes that were no doubt Sean’s—the jeans were neatly folded, and he’d anally stuffed his little white socks into his Pumas. Making sure no one was looking, she balled up the jeans in her hands and started backing away from the pond. What would the V Club say if they caught him driving home in his boxers?

As she walked toward the trees with Sean’s jeans, something fell and bounced off her foot. Hanna picked it up and stared at it for a moment, waiting for her vision to un-double.

The key to the BMW.

“Sweet,” she whispered, stroking the alarm button with her finger. Then she dropped the jeans back on the ground and shoved the keys into her blue quilted Moschino bag.

It was a gorgeous night for a drive.

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