Before & After - Nazarea Andrews

Prologue: Now

It's raining buckets and I don't want to go out in that. I stare at it from under the awning of the club and feel Lindsay sway into me. For a second, we both wobble and another one of the girls bangs against my side and I shriek, sure we were going down.

Lindsay rights me, pulls me close. I lean my head on her shoulder and puff out a petulant, "Bitch."

Her grip tightens just a touch and she laughs.

I haven't been this drunk since senior year of college, when we did Christmas at her parent's beach house in Key West. I wouldn't be this drunk now except she begged.

Hung over and washed out won't do for the wedding, and even after that insane night on the beach with Jell-O shots and beer funnels and tequila body shots, I woke up without a hangover.

And that's what you do, when your best friend begs the night before her wedding. You do her shots while the rest of the bridal party screams at the strippers and you slip her watered down beer that smells like piss.

You take the holy-fuck-never-again drunk, because tomorrow, no one will be looking at me while she prances down the aisle in white.


One person will. And he'd think this shit was hilarious. I giggle against Linds' shoulder and she bumps me gently. "You good?" she murmurs as we wait for the cab.

I smirk up at her, the world spinning unsteadily. "I'm fucking wasted."

She laughs softly and kisses my forehead.

"Lindsay, get in," one of the other girls calls. Lindsay leans past me and peers at the cab. It won't hold all of us, and I can feel a new tension settle over my best friend.

Lindsay doesn't have a lot of close friends. Partly because we came here, to this city neither of us knows, because of the boys. So we both started over.

And because when we have each other, and the boys, well, we don't need much else. But she's more social than I am. And she works at a small ad agency, where she's gotten close to the other girls.

So when she needed bridesmaids, of course she asked them.

I smirk as Lindsay shakes her head. "Y’all go. Peyton and I will grab the next."

There's a moment of rain-splattered quiet and then the girl—I forget but I think she's one of the Jennifers—shrugs and slides into the little cab, slamming the door behind her.

"What a bitch," I mutter.

She laughs, that real noise that I know like breathing. Not the fake shit she's been shoveling at the other girls all night.

"Stop it," she orders and I blink up at her. "You’re thinking too much. You’re drunk, Pey. Let go and enjoy it."

I lean into her, and murmur, "Wanna help?"

She laughs again, shoving my shoulder, and I giggle. "You are such a slut when you drink,” she mutters.

I nod agreeably, and a cab pulls up. It's dingy and the driver is frowning at his phone even as it he pulls to a stop. He gives us a distracted look as we spill in and the world sways. Lindsay tugs me against her as I whimper and she pushes my hair back, studying me. "The Embassy Suites," she says and he nods, jerking into motion.

Linds mutters under her breath and reaches for her seatbelt. "Sit up, honey. Belt. The rain is awful."

"Freaking mother hen," I grumble and she shrugs, implacable. I huff and shift to sit up and my phone goes off, the ringtone that only Rike has. I squeal and Lindsay reaches for me as I scramble for my purse, abandoned on the dark, dirty floorboard. I close my hand over it and hear her scream, my name a twisted noise that is almost unrecognizable.

It's the last thing I can't remember.

Chapter 1: Before

The bar is riding the line of slow and dead, which is depressing as fuck, because playing to an empty room is always a little bit of a letdown. Scotty doesn’t bitch. He doesn’t give a fuck who listens, as long he has a mic and his guitar with me to back him up.

Scotty could play to an empty room, and still be a happy motherfucker. He’s done it often enough.

Lamar swings by the bar with a fresh round of longneck bottles, and I stand from where I’m adjusting the drums to take it from him.

“Slow night.”

He shrugs. “It’ll pick up. You play, and it always does.”

True. But it’s been months since we had this low a turnout to work