The Two Worlds of Sydnee Cameron Year 3 Episode 8: Party + Sydnee = Trouble

Welcome to The Two Worlds of Sydnee Cameron, entering its third year. If you’re new to this series, just start reading. 

If you enjoy this episode and want to catch up on Year 1, you can start with Year 1, Episode 1: Winners and Losers or check out the List of Year 1 Episodes or read the Year 1 Synopsis.

Episode 8: Party + Sydnee = Trouble

I surveyed the basement from my spot by the stairs and tried to figure out what a good hostess should be doing. Maybe I should’ve paid more attention to my mother during her parties.

A shiver ran through me. Paying attention to Mother was a horrifying thought. Imitating Mother was ten times worse.

My phone vibrated in my hand, and I glanced down.

Going to get in trouble?

I frowned at the text from my cousin, Joseph Andrews. Another popped up before I could reply: Party + U = trouble. Always.

Does not. I typed. But he was right. My last attempts resulted in either me in trouble or one of my friends not speaking to me.

I looked around the basement of my parents’ house. Not the typical basement. Not the typical house. Actually, we were in the Cameron mansion. My house too, but I rarely slept here or did anything else. The basement, however, was a huge game room-slash-theater-slash-lounge. The gym room, full of weights and treadmills and other equipment, remained shut off and locked. David Clayton had put that room off limits. A gym wasn’t really a party room, but since my party started with a game of basketball on the full court outside, strength training would’ve made sense.

Instead, everyone was stuck playing pool or cards or watching the baseball game in the theater. But they all seemed to be having fun. I should probably figure out how to have fun too.

David’s in charge. I told Joseph.

With David in charge, I had permission for everything—which would keep me out of trouble—and Mother wasn’t involved. She’d finally left for the sunny beaches of Florida, leaving me behind and exactly where I wanted to be.

“Who’re you talking to?” Chris Clayton, my best friend and boyfriend, walked up behind me and peeked over my shoulder.

“Joseph.” I showed him the screen. Chris and Joseph had shared Chris’s room until a month ago. Now Joseph and his brother, Derrick, lived with their parents in Kansas. “He thinks there’s going to be trouble.”

“Odds aren’t in your favor.” The teasing sparkle in Chris’s voice didn’t stop me from elbowing him in the gut.

“It’s going okay, though, right?” I looked up from my phone and gazed around the basement. Everyone looked like they were having fun. They talked. They smiled. They laughed. That equaled fun, right?

I was the only one standing around not smiling or laughing.

A party. The equation Joseph should’ve written was U + Party = Bored + Lost.

“Want to go play pool?” Chris nodded at the pool table, way on the other side of the room. Andy, Liam, and Kyle held sticks, but the table was almost empty of colorful balls. “Looks like they’ll be starting another game soon.”

“Sure.”

Chris and I started across the room, holding hands. Halfway across the room, I caught sight of Abby and Lilli, and I stopped, but Chris didn’t.

“What?” Chris jerked backward.

“I’ll meet you over there.” I let go of Chris’s hand. “But don’t wait for me.”

“Okay.” He glanced around as if trying to figure out what I’d rather do than play pool. Or what I’d rather do without him.

Actually, I wouldn’t rather do anything, but I’d found two other people not smiling or laughing.

Abby and Lilli huddled together on an extra wide chair. Abby’s expression alternated between miserable and hatred, both turning her face red and only a shade lighter than her hair. Lilli, who was Joseph’s girlfriend and Abby’s other best friend, appeared to be comforting her.

Whatever was wrong, I probably didn’t want to know, and I probably wouldn’t be much help. But Abby was my other best friend, and I’d been trying to do better at the friend thing. This was also my house and my party, making me responsible for everyone having fun.

Of course, my ideas of fun and Abby’s didn’t always match, so again, my decision to have a party should be questioned.

“What’s wrong?” I tugged a chair close to Abby and Lilli.

“Why did you have to invite her?” Abby’s expression stopped on hatred, and she aimed the look at me.

Should’ve played pool.

I looked around for who the “her” might be. Elizabeth Clayton, Chris’s younger sister, and a couple of her friends had come, but Abby was friends with Elizabeth. Unless for some reason they weren’t friends now and I hadn’t gotten the text. Totally possible. Besides them, the only other girl here was Angel Lincoln. The other eleven guests were guys.

“Who?” I finally asked.

“Angel.” Lilli, being the loyal friend that I apparently was not, spat her name like it was the opposite of a heavenly being.

“What’s wrong with Angel? And where is she?” I looked all around the room, but didn’t see my cross country and basketball teammate. With her wild, puffy hairstyle, she was hard to miss.

“She’s in the theater.” Lilli pointed with her head.

I stretched my neck and saw Angel’s hair poofing over the back of one of the seats.

“She’s flirting with Dean.” Abby delivered Angel’s crime and everything made sense. Mostly. Abby had liked Dean since eighth grade, but after two years and a few failed attempts to make something happened, Abby and Dean hadn’t gotten together.

“Maybe they’re just talking.” I stood to see better.

“Don’t stare.” Abby pulled me back into the seat. “They’ll see.”

But no one would notice Abby’s I-want-to-beat-you-up glares?

“She likes him.” Abby’s tone switched to hopelessness. “Why else would she be talking to him?”

“Maybe they’re talking because they both play basketball and like baseball.” Two things Abby didn’t like, even though she’d tried, or at least pretended to try.

“Why are you defending her?” The anger returned. “You’re supposed to be on my side. You were my friend first.”

“Your friend first?” What did that have to do with anything? Definitely should’ve played pool.

“Yes. You should go over there and tell Angel . . . tell her . . .”

“Tell her she can’t have Dean,” Lilli finished.

“Can’t have him?” My head was starting to ache. This conversation was like pool balls bouncing through my brain. “Dean’s a person. Doesn’t he get to decide who he talks to?”

“But she can stop talking to him.”

“I’m not going to tell her she has to.” I was probably messing up on the friend thing again., but I couldn’t accept Abby’s insanity. “She can talk to Dean if she wants. And Dean can talk to her.”

“But what if he likes her?” Abby sounded like that would be the most tragic thing in the world.

“What if he does? He’s allowed to.” Right away, I realized those were the wrong words. Always, always take your best friend’s side. Or keep your mouth shut.

Yep, I’d screwed up on the friend thing. Again.

Abby stared at me open-mouthed. She grabbed Lilli’s arm, and they hurried off to another corner. Probably to talk about me now.

Maybe I should text Joseph and let him know he was right. But I’d let Lilli do that for me.

I walked over to the pool table. Chris studied his shot. I waited until he’d taken his turn and missed.

“I messed up.” I pinched my lower lip between my thumb and forefinger.

“So did I.” Chris frowned at the table. Liam made a clean shot, spinning a yellow ball into a pocket.

“No, I really messed up. Just like Joseph predicted.”

“Are we going to get grounded?” Chris looked away from the game and over my head. “Dad doesn’t look mad.”

I glanced over my shoulder. David was walking around the room.

“Has he just not found out what you’ve done?” Despite my panic and lack of humor, Chris sounded light, nothing serious.

“Not that kind of trouble.” The heaviness of my words sank just like the tenth ball in the corner pocket and pulled Chris’s attention to my face.

He met my gaze and his smile melted. “Trevor, take over for me.” Chris passed off the stick to a basketball teammate and led me to a two-cushioned seat. “What happened?”

I curled into one corner, facing Chris. “I told Abby that Dean’s allowed to talk to Angel.”

His forehead pinched. “How did that get you in trouble?”

“Abby thinks Angel is flirting with Dean.”

“And you’re supposed to get Angel away from Dean.” Chris nodded, catching on a lot quicker than I had. “But instead, you said Dean could talk to whoever he wanted.”

“Yes.” I never had to explain things to Chris. “Which was the wrong thing to say, wasn’t it?”

“It’s exactly what I’d expect you to say.”

“Then completely, totally, absolutely wrong.” I thumped the side of my head against the back of the couch. “So what am I supposed to do now? Abby’s mad at me.”

“Again.” Chris finished my sentence. “She’s mad at you every other week lately.”

“And if she’s not mad at me, then you are.”

Chris stared at me.

“That’s something else I probably shouldn’t have said.” Maybe I talked too much. No one had ever accused me of talking too much, but when I did talk, I said the wrong things.

“We haven’t had a fight in weeks.”

“Except when I told you I was writing Jax.” What was wrong with me? Why was I talking about the letters I sent Jaxon Braddock, my only rich friend? He and Chris were anything but friends. Was I trying to make all my friends mad at me? “Something must’ve been in my water bottle. Like a say-stupid-stuff drug.”

“At least you know when you say something stupid now. You used to be confused about what was wrong.” Chris tugged me until I was tucked into his side, his arm around my shoulders. “That’s progress. Maybe someday you’ll stop yourself from actually saying them out loud.”

“Until that day, what am I going to do? Do I apologize to Abby? Tell Angel she’s not allowed to talk to Dean?” My stomach rolled at the thought. Or maybe I’d served questionable cheese dip on the snack table.

“If you really wanted to fix things, you could tell Angel she has to go home.”

“I can’t do that.” I slid to the edge of the chair, looking at Chris. “It’s not fair. Angel isn’t doing anything wrong.”

“I was joking.” Chris pulled me back into his side. “It would prove to Abby that you were on her side, but I know you could never do that. And you’re right. Dean can talk to whoever he wants. And he’s never wanted to talk to Abby.”

“He doesn’t like her, does he?” Chris was Dean’s best friend, so if anyone would know, it should be him.

“I’ve never asked, and he’s never volunteered anything. But since you’ve practically told him a couple of times, he probably knows Abby likes him and if he liked her, he would’ve done something about it. Then again, Dean’s about as aware as you when it comes to that kind of thing, so maybe he hasn’t figured it out.”

“Did you just insult me?”

“Not an insult. Obviously, I like hanging out with people who are clueless about that kind of drama.”

“But you’re so clued in.”

“Maybe it makes me feel smart. My grades will never match yours, so I’ve got to be socially smarter.”

“We’re in all the same classes. And your grades are just as good as mine.”

“But I have to study. And spend twice as long on my homework.”

“Stop it.” I laid back against his shoulder, firm behind my head. The panic from earlier had faded. I felt relaxed, light, peaceful. But my problem hadn’t been solved. “So I can’t fix things with Abby?”

“Probably not.” Chris ran his rough fingers along my arm. “She’ll get over it eventually.”

“I’ll apologize later.” That was the only option left. “What I said might’ve been true, but I shouldn’t have said it.”

“When you apologize, leave out the part about it being true.”

“Good point.” I twisted to see Chris’s face. His chin was only inches from my eyes. “Thanks for understanding me, especially when I don’t understand anything.”

“Yeah, well, you always understand the homework when I don’t. I owe you.” He smiled, his lips so close to mine.

I stretched up to kiss him. After a second or two, Chris kissed me back.

He gazed down at me, his blue-gray eyes brighter and darker than usual. “And sometimes, you do things I don’t expect.”

I didn’t rush off to find Abby, telling myself that as hostess I had to hang out with all my guests. So I checked the baseball scores and played a game of pool. Despite the pool table technically being in my house, I wasn’t very good. Throwing a large orange ball into a basket was way easier than hitting small ones into pockets. Then I taste-tested the food—chips, dips, cookies, a few token vegetables. They’d been sitting out for a couple of hours by that point, so I had to make sure everything was still edible.

And then it was nine o’clock. Early hour for ending a party, but Chris, Dean, Angel, and I had a cross country meet in the morning. David herded us out of the mansion and back to his house to meet parents or to get their cars. The mansion driveway had a gate, and people had to push a button so someone inside the mansion could remotely open the gate. It was just easier for people to drive to the Claytons’ house behind the mansion.

The sun had set and the first stars twinkled in the sky. The moon lit our path across the grass.

I found Abby and Lilli in the crowd, and wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans, I fell into step next to them.

“About earlier . . .” I cleared my dry throat. Just apologize. Nothing more. “I’m sorry for what I said.”

“It’s true.” Abby’s shoulders rose and fell slowly, like she struggled against a heavy weight. Her gaze was locked on something in front of us.

Dean and Angel walking together and holding hands.

I guess Angel had been flirting.

“I’m still sorry.” Saying it again didn’t count as saying too much.

“He doesn’t like me. He never did.” Abby spoke softly, as if admitting this to herself.

I pressed my lips together. I’m sure I was supposed to say something supportive, but who knew what might come out of my mouth. Truth was, I didn’t know what to say. What if my interest in Chris had been one-sided? He’d had other girlfriends before we got together and when we’d broken up. Okay, so we’d broken up because of other girls. Seeing Chris interested in other girls, even before we were a couple, had ripped out my heart.

“I’m sorry.” The same words again. The only words that wouldn’t come out wrong. But this time, they carried empathy instead of the trying-to-say-the-right-thing tone.

“Thanks.” Abby must’ve heard the sincerity.

Maybe I could call this party a success.

“This is your fault though.” The sharpness from earlier returned, and Abby seemed to shake off whatever had been weighing her down. Actually, she didn’t shake it off so much as throw it at me. “If you hadn’t invited her, this never would’ve happened.”

“My fault? Am I supposed to be psychic or something? I didn’t know they’d . . .” I waved my hands at Dean and Angel, not quite sure what to call this. Were Dean and Angel a couple?

Abby didn’t respond. Instead, she grabbed Lilli’s arm and dragged her around the edge of the crowd.

Yep. Party + Me = Trouble.

We reached the gate in the stone wall and exited from the Cameron Estate and onto the Claytons’ front lawn—technically, still part of the Cameron Estate, but felt completely different. The house in front of us was a normal-sized, two-story, and the garage only held two cars instead of eight.

A few of the guys got into their cars, others met their parents. Abby and Lilli climbed into the backseat of Abby’s brother Andy’s car.

“Hey, great party. Really great party.” Even in the moonlight, Angel’s eyes sparkled. She walked away, talking over her shoulder and raising her voice. “My mom’s here, but I’ll tell you all about it on the bus tomorrow morning.”

I waved as she climbed into a car. “At least someone had fun.” I glanced at Chris. He stood next to me in the grass, watching everyone leave.

“They all had fun.” Now Chris and I were the couple holding hands. His rough palm felt familiar and reassuring. “Except Abby. And that’s not your fault.”

He was right. I hadn’t set up Dean and Angel. That would never occur to me. Abby had to know that. But would I be forced to choose between her and Angel? Or would Abby try to turn me into a spy?

“Are you two coming in?” David held the kitchen door open. His question wasn’t really a question.

Chris and I headed for the door. My phone vibrated in my pocket. I pulled it out and read the text.

Sorry I was right. A yellow sad face accompanied Joseph’s message.

Me too.

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