going how I’d wanted it to. She was pushing my buttons with that sneer, sucking me into her psychodrama vortex. I couldn’t let her. I inhaled more slowly, straightened my itchy wig, planted my hands on my hips, and exhaled. “Okay, look, I just came to tell you one thing. I’m not going to let you ruin this birthday.” It didn’t sound like much, and Icka’s patronizing gaze made me painfully aware of how stupid I must look trying to sound tough in my kidnap victim’s getup. But I was proud of myself just for getting it out. I’d put up with so much—way too much—until now, but today I was taking a stand.“Do you hear me?” I added. “Am I being clear? Stay away from the party…and my friends.”
    She gave a short laugh, more like a sob. “I keep telling you, you don’t have friends! None of us does.”
    The way she said it, I wasn’t sure if she just meant our family or the whole planet. Either way, she was wrong again—so wrong it made me sad for her. No one had friends? That’s what she needed to believe? Even the stoners had each other, and it didn’t take a genius to see why she wasn’t welcome in their dark leather huddle, let alone on the quad. As for the future, things looked even grimmer. At least now she had teachers checking up on her, and parents to go home to. But what would happen to my sister when she turned eighteen without a friend in the world?
    “Hey, hey.” Icka touched a hand to the top of her head. “Don’t you start a pity party for me , Joy-Joy. I have my problems, I admit it, but at least I don’t need to pretend I’m best pals with the A-list, or should I say the A-hole list.”
    Any sympathy I’d felt for her vanished like smoke. “You can’t go after my friendships anymore.” I’d never heard my voice so certain, words tumbling out unplanned but deeply felt. “If you ever do it again, it’ll be the last time I speak to you.”
    She snorted and waved her hand as if to shoo a gnat. “Oh, you’re not actually mad at me for that. You have to admit it was funny to watch.”
    “It was not funny! Can’t you even see that?”
    “The only reason you’re mad,” she went on with infuriating calm, “is because just like that”—she snapped her fingers—“I proved that all your supposed friendships are bullshit. Remind me, how many seconds did it take loyal BFF Parker to turn on you?”
    “She did not turn on me!” I was yelling now. “You played on her Whispers. You knew she liked Ben. Your little mind game was just stupid and cruel—not to mention a complete lie. Ben Williams would never call me.” I held my breath.
    Icka smiled at me. “You’re so hoping he did, though.”
    “I am not!”
    She shrugged. “I can Hear you.”
    I lowered my voice, glanced around, even though we were alone. “Maybe I wish someone as cool as Ben would call me, all right? That’s not the same.” I was aware of the defensive catch in my voice and the slow drunken grin spreading on her face. What was she Hearing now? “So what if I hoped!” I blurted out, hating the satisfaction in her eyes. “So what? It was just a stupid Whisper. Maybe I am attracted to Ben. Who wouldn’t be? It’s not like I’d ever let it affect my actions, so what’s the big deal?”
    “Oh, I get it!” She widened her eyes and pretended to twirl her hair. “It’s not a big deal if you like him, it’s only a big deal if Parker likes him. She gets whatever she wants, your desires don’t count. Sound fair to you?”
    “That is not what I said!” Suddenly I was shouting again. “And it’s not true!”
    “You’re wishing it wasn’t,” she informed me with a superior grin. She jumped up from the boulder, as if Hearing me incriminate myself had given her new energy. “It means I was right, part of you already knows the ugly truth.” Now she was inches from my face, vodka on her breath. “Congratulations, little sis, you’re finally seeing the sad, shitty light of reality—where some

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