September 17 6:17 PM A week later saw Savannah Leigh in a bit of a different mood. She was not racked with sadness of her uncertain future but rather with a fear of it. Tonight, she was fearful of what the evening may hold for her- she had given in and consented to go to the party at Mary Beth’s insistent badgering. Savannah Leigh brushed her long blonde hair as she sat in front of her vanity. Looking in the mirror, she attempted to force an affirmation, but couldn’t. “Hey!” Mary Beth poked her head in the room, catching Savannah Leigh off guard, who jumped “You ready Hanna Banna? Girls will be here soon,” She asked, indicating their friends who would be arriving for the birthday celebration. Born just a year and twelve days apart, the two had a small annual all-girl birthday gala. After which they would go to the party Mary Beth was asking permission about. Savannah Leigh answered with uncertainty, “Yep.” She pursed her lips. Knowing Savannah Leigh’s mannerisms all too well, Mary Beth detected her sister’s hesitation and said automatically, “It’ll be fine.” Her reply was unconvincing, even to her own ears. Knowing instantaneously that this reaction had sounded too fake, Mary Beth immediately followed it up with, “No, seriously, it’ll be fun.” She walked into the room holding out her hand to her sister. “We’re all going to have a good time tonight. We’ll have a blast, I promise!” She tried to sound convincing. Savannah Leigh held her sister’s outstretched hand and smiled weakly, not convinced. Mary Beth detected Savannah Leigh’s continued trepidation. “Tell me what’s going on,” she said as she sat on the bed. “I feel like this is a pity party tonight,” Savannah Leigh said. Mary Beth took the brush from her sister’s hand and resumed Savannah Leigh primping. “It’s no pity party. The same group of girls will come over and we’ll do a little celebrating, as we do every year, like it’s always been.” Mary Beth looked to Savannah Leigh and saw that her words had not soothed her sister. “What else is going on?” she asked. Savannah Leigh spoke of her other fear “I’m just not sure about this other party. I feel comfortable at home, and I’m scared I’ll feel out of place at this other party.” “You won’t! Everybody adores you Savannah Leigh. And there won’t be anyone you don’t know. We are seriously gonna cut loose and have a good time there! You need it girl,” Mary Beth said with overstated enthusiasm. Again, Mary Beth felt her remarks were unconvincing and flat, wishing her acting abilities were better, hoping her sister had believed her act, knowing she hadn’t. And again, Savannah Leigh smiled weakly. September 17 8:36 PM The North Carolina night air was unusually crisp this early in the year, the autumn evening already chilled with a northern breeze. Lee had brought a jacket but most likely wouldn’t wear it, for as soon as he put some alcohol in his system, he would warm up fine. He didn’t plan on drinking a lot, he told himself, just enough to take the edge off. But knowing that his plans of drinking just a few didn’t always go as planned, fearing he would lose control, he suggested to Joe King “Hey, why don’t we leave the cooler in the trunk? It’ll keep others from bumming beers off us or people raiding our cooler.” “Ya, you’re probably right. I think this little party somehow morphed into a monster and more people will show up than are supposed to. If it does get out of control and we’re not getting lucky with the ladies maybe we can get wasted in one of your dad’s empty rentals?” he proposed plan B. “Sounds good!” Lee said, eagerly wanting to get wasted, looking in the visor mirror, he examined the black eye that he’d received last night. “How do you get a black eye in a football game? Or did you get in another fight?” Joe King asked, already knowing Lee had gotten in a fight. “Got it during the game.” “A fight?” “Ya, a fight in the game. I got my helmet stripped and punches started flying.” “Won’t that effect your game time? Scholarships? What did your parents say?” “We’ll see.” Lee said vaguely, not caring. Joe King laughed at Lee’s aloof attitude and added “Chicks are going to dig that!” “You think?” Lee said, flipping the mirror up and leaning back in the passenger seat. “Hell yes!! Makes you look like a bad ass!” Lee smiled, thinking that it did kind of make him look tough. But then again, he was tough. Anticipating the party, Lee was a bit excited. And nervous. He was apprehensive of seeing any of his old classmates from grade school, wondering if anyone would recognize him. Would he see an old friend that would harass him for not staying in touch? Or would they think he was a pretty preppy boy that was too good for them because he went to private school and was a football success? Would he get in a fight? His insecurities flourished and he wanted a drink to take off the edge, which reminded Lee to ask Joe King “You brought the cups right?” Lee needed a plain cup to conceal his drinking, not wanting to be seen with an open container. “Oh damn, I forgot!” “For real?” “Just kidding!” Joe King joked.