“So if you spent all night doing that…”

“Yes, mom, I did my homework!” She let that settle in the space between them just long enough before adding, “Just not the homework we were assigned in class.”

Abi huffed. She knew it didn’t matter, that Cora would pass every class with ease anyway, no homework required. Cora half-heard something one time and remembered it forever. But since she never did her homework, she hadn’t gotten an A since seventh grade.

“We should plan a big reveal for your publishing news tonight!”

Tonight? At the party? She hadn’t agreed to that yet…

“I’m having dinner tonight at your house aren’t I?” Cora’s question didn’t exactly sound like a question so much as an annoyed reminder.

Abi smacked her forehead. “Yes. I mean, no! I mean—you’re coming but no big reveal. Just a regular old reveal.” Cora knew better than to press that issue. The last thing they needed was some excitement that Abi’s mom couldn’t handle.

They weaved through the narrow hallways toward their geometry class, Cora in the lead, until she stopped so suddenly that Abi ran into her.

“Cora! Are you okay?” Abi steadied herself but froze when she saw Cora’s face.

Her eyes were wide. Fearful.

“What is it? What happened?” Abi glanced up and down, making sure there was no blood or bones sticking out or…

Cora’s shocked face grew into an evil grin, one perfectly groomed eyebrow raising. “I just thought of a brilliant idea!”

“Really? Here’s a good idea: don’t give people heart attacks.” Abi turned and took her seat toward the back of the class, knowing Cora would be in hot pursuit.

“Homework time for the party! It’s perfect! You get to feel all warm and fuzzy because you’re helping me get better grades, and I get to be the amazing friend who helped her bestie celebrate a freaking huge accomplishment.”

Their teacher went through roll call and Abi pretended to wait patiently for her name, avoiding Cora’s gaze.

Maybe this was the perfect excuse. If she got caught, it wouldn’t be as bad as just going out for the hell of it. She was doing it for a cause.

Abi rolled her eyes at herself. What was she thinking? A cop wouldn’t take “homework grades” as an excuse if she got caught.

“Graham will be there the whole time, nothing bad will happen with him there.” Cora leaned toward Abi as she whispered. “I know I talk a lot of shit, but these parties aren’t crazy. No cops are ever called. They’re as tame as can be.”

The glint in Cora’s eyes suggested otherwise.

Turning to their teacher, Abi ignored the occasional texts and pokes she got from Cora. Deep down, she had already made up her mind.

Abi didn’t want to admit to her friend there were other reasons she was hesitant: she had never had alcohol before. Cora would likely shove a shot of some awful liquor in her face and what if she threw up? In front of a bunch of people? Her palms felt clammy thinking about it.

And what if she was a complete lightweight and got drunk too fast and made a fool out of herself? She was only fifteen, wasn’t that too young for all of this?

These were the same thoughts she’d had a hundred times before, but they didn’t quell that fire in her gut. She deserved to celebrate. To reward herself for reaching this milestone.

To hell with it.

Waiting until their teacher had her back to them, Abi whispered, “How much homework time are we talking about here?”

Cora perked up, rotating to face Abi in her seat and struggling to keep her voice down. “A week!”

“Two. And you’ll do the extra credit in Mr. Regan’s class.” Her heart thumped as she ended the sentence, like she was already doing something she shouldn’t.

“Ugh, fine. Deal?”

“Deal.” This time, she didn’t hold back her smile. The bell rang. They walked out of class arm in arm, but to Abi, it felt more like skipping.

Cora squeezed Abi’s arm and she returned the squeeze. The day had just begun. The rest of her life had just begun.