Home > The Ones Who Got Away (The Ones Who Got Away #1)(5)

The Ones Who Got Away (The Ones Who Got Away #1)(5)
Author: Roni Loren


   She should’ve kicked him in the soft parts and told him to go screw himself. He had a feeling grown-up Liv would know what to do, based on her quick dismissal of his earlier offer to meet up tonight. She didn’t look like a woman who would be walked on. Which, of course, only made him want to talk to her more, to discover who she’d become. But he didn’t deserve her time. She’d pretty much made that clear, and he didn’t blame her. He’d lost that right on so many levels he couldn’t name them all.

   Janice stopped at his table with another drink and set down a fried slab of meat as big as his head. White gravy sloshed off the side of the plate and onto the pine table. “Hot sauce and ketchup are by the sugar caddy if you need them. Can I get you anything else right now?”

   “Lipitor?”

   She laughed and patted him on the shoulder. “Strapping young man like you? I think you’ll handle it just fine. I’ll check on you in a few.”

   Finn took a half-hearted bite of his food as he watched Liv and her friends. They headed to a large round booth in the corner, and the bartender brought over two giant pitchers of margaritas. Apparently, Finn wasn’t the only one ready to get hammered after the day of interview questions and hellish memories.

   Liv was smiling still, listening to something one of the others said, but she was the first to reach for the pitcher, and she poured her glass to the top. When she lifted it to her lips, she drained half in one go, telling him exactly how much of a facade that carefree smile was.

   He lifted his glass in silent camaraderie. Here’s to drinking away the dark, Liv. Let’s hope we can outrun it for another night.

   * * *

   The sounds of the restaurant and her former classmates blurred at the edges, everything becoming a little more fluid, a little less crisp. Liv set down her glass, knowing that three margaritas were more than her limit. She didn’t drink like this anymore. College Liv could’ve taken down twice this much and still been on her feet—well, before she ended up off her feet in some random dude’s dorm room. She wasn’t that girl anymore. And she wasn’t going to let this rocky hike along memory lane resurrect that train-wreck version of herself. But dinner with these women needed a little boozy fortitude, so she’d allowed herself a few.

   “Need a refill, Liv?” Kincaid asked as she poured another glass for herself, her bangle bracelets clinking against the pitcher. Somehow the woman still looked put together after a long day of interviewing, not a lock of her golden hair out of place—a Texas beauty queen if ever there was one. “We can make a toast and then open the jar.”

   Liv lifted a palm. “No, I’m cutting myself off. If I drink any more, I won’t be able to read what’s inside that jar. Plus, I’m too old to be hungover.”

   “I’m not,” Taryn said, lifting her glass and shaking it. The ice cubes caught the light, illuminating her brown skin with a disco ball effect and flashing off her dark-rimmed glasses. “If any night deserves a hangover, it’s this one. I want to pretend that I’m here with friends I haven’t seen in years because I missed them, and we’re doing some fun little time capsule thing. Not because we had to recount the most horrible night of our lives in traumatizing detail, mm-kay?”

   “I’ll drink to that,” Rebecca said from her spot across from Liv before taking a big gulp of her margarita, somehow managing to look prim while she did it. “And I’m not sure we should open the jar anyway. Let’s just get drunk and move on. The notes inside are irrelevant. We aren’t those teenagers anymore.”

   All four women stared at the dirty mason jar they’d placed in the center of the table as if it were going to detonate. Taryn had retrieved it a few hours ago from beneath the lemon tree in her mom’s backyard where the four of them had buried it the summer after senior year. None of them had reached for it yet.

   Kincaid tapped a bright-pink fingernail against the worn wood of the tabletop. “We had a pact, ladies. We were supposed to open this two years ago. We’re finally all together. Now is not the time to chicken out.”

   “We also made a promise to stay in touch,” Rebecca said between sips, her wry tone at full throttle. “That worked out well.”

   Taryn frowned, brown eyes shifting away. “Come on, it’s not like that. We’ve…Facebooked. We’ve just been busy.”

   Rebecca arched a brow like she was still on the debate team and her opponent had just made a bullshit point. “For a decade? Yeah, okay.”

   Taryn opened her mouth to respond, but Liv cut her off. There was no reason to argue or pretend like this was something that it wasn’t. “It’s not because we’ve been busy. We all know that.”

   “We do?” Kincaid asked, looking genuinely curious.

   Liv wiped salt off the rim of her glass and rubbed it between her fingers until it disappeared, not wanting to be the one to say it but knowing someone had to. “It’s because we want to forget. We say we want to keep in touch, but it hurts to remember. And what else do we do for each other but remind ourselves of the bad stuff? We were never friends in the Before, only in the After.”

   Silence fell over the table, everyone looking as uncomfortable as Liv had felt since sitting down with them. The four of them didn’t have good memories together because they had never been friends before the shooting. Kincaid Breslin had been friendly with all of them on some level because she was the type to be chatty with everyone. She could talk a tree stump into having a conversation and liking her. But it was a saying-hi-in-the-hallway kind of acquaintance. She’d been head of the dance team—gorgeous, popular, and sparkling in a sphere not many could touch.

   Taryn Landry had been the honor student and athlete, playing three different sports and not having time for friends besides the other jocks and her younger sister, who had been one of the victims. And Rebecca Lindt, student council president and Finn’s date the night of the dance, had been the goody-two-shoes redhead Liv rolled her eyes over, her nemesis. None of them would’ve ever been friends.

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