CHAPTER ONE


TRIS


"Honey!" my boyfriend calls jokingly from downstairs. "I brought you something pretty!"

"I'm in my room!" I call back. I hear his giggling as he makes his way up the stairs, amused with whatever he's done this time.

Uriah walks in obscured by a stop sign, and I laugh back. He leans it against the wall and waves his arms to point at it dramatically. "Happy unbirthday," he grins and sits down on my bed.

"Perfect," I laugh. "I can't believe Al stole a stop sign. I really thought he was going to chicken out." I pull my t-shirt off over my head as I cross the room to my open closet, barely dodging Uriah's attempt to grab me around the waist.

"I guess he's tired of being the first one drunk at parties and embarrassing himself in front of half the school," Uriah says. That's the penalty for refusing or failing to complete a dare: at the next party, you have to take five straight shots and sing karaoke to whatever song the gang chooses. Each time Al takes his penalty, I almost want to argue that we show him mercy. Only because he is completely and totally tone deaf, listening to him sing is more painful than it is funny. It's a relief that for once, Al didn't refuse Uriah's dare.

I toss my t-shirt in the laundry hamper and scan the contents of my closet. The skinny jeans I have on are fine, so I just choose a cute black top and pull it off the hanger.

"Woah, hang on there," Uriah protests as I prepare to pull the top over my head. He pulls me by my hips and I fall into his lap. Uriah trails his fingers up my bare stomach. "It looked like you were about to put more clothes on. If you ask me, you're totally going the wrong direction there." I giggle and press my lips to his. Uriah quickly kisses me back, pressing me closer with his hand against the small of my back, and I wrap my arms around his neck in return.

But before he can turn this into a full-on makeout session (or more), I pull away. "Not now, Uri. We're supposed to be at Christina's in…" I glance at the clock by my bed and my eyes widen. "Ten minutes. And I haven't even fixed my make-up yet!" I stand and quickly pull on the top that had fallen to the floor, then hop up and glance in the mirror. "And my hair." In the mirror's reflection I can see Uriah pouting behind me and I roll my eyes.

Five minutes later, I have brushed my hair, touched up my makeup, and pulled on my black converse. I leave my truck in the garage and ride with Uri in his Jeep. I first became friends with Uriah and his twin brother Zeke when I moved to Chicago in third grade. We've been inseparable for half our lives now, but somehow about a year and a half ago, friendship was no longer enough for either of us. The brothers have been the people I can rely on through everything, at my best and at my worst. They're just there for me in different ways now, obviously.

"Are Chris's parents home?" Uriah asks while he parks at the curb in front of Christina's house.

"I don't think so," I answer. "If they were going to be home, she wouldn't have invited us. We'd have been at my house or yours."

Uriah rolls his eyes and reaches behind my seat to grab a case of beer. "Zeke and I spent all day cleaning up, I'm not ready to do that again yet. It would've been yours, not mine." They had their usual friday night post-game party, which half the school showed up to. I can attest, the place was completely trashed when I woke up there this morning.

I hop out of the Jeep and wait for him on the sidewalk. "It was worse before I left. Didn't you notice the two trash bags in the kitchen filled with beer cans?" I ask as we start up the walk to Christina's house. "Did you think the cleaning fairy visited? No, that was your girlfriend, thank you very much."

"Thanks, babe," Uriah grins, and gives me a sloppy kiss before we walk in without knocking. Christina's house is sleek and modern and just about everything is black and white. It's a dangerous place to allow Uriah and Zeke to hang out― one of them will probably spill something on the white carpet or sofa by the end of the night.

Shauna sits on the couch, and her step-sister, Lynn, is next to her with a black throw pillow in her hands. Zeke is in an armchair across from her with his feet on the coffee table, and Shauna steals occasional glances at him. She's had a crush on Zeke forever, but he's too busy hooking up with a new girl each week to notice.

Uriah plops the case of beer on the coffee table and starts tossing cans to people. I catch one and consider for a moment whether to drink it. One of us has to be the designated driver, and I know it won't be Uri. Still, I can drink one now and be perfectly sober to drive home by the time we leave in a few hours, so I sit down next to him on the love seat and pop the top open. After taking a long sip, I lean into his side with my legs curled under me.

Christina comes out of the kitchen, followed by Will, Marlene and Al, and shoots me a glare. "Finally, everyone is here," she says. She and Will cuddle up at the other end of the couch, and Al sits in the last open seat, another armchair.

Most of us have been friends since grade school. Lynn joined the group when her dad married Shauna's mom in sixth grade. I guess you could say that my friends and I are popular; all of us girls, except Lynn, are cheerleaders, and most of the boys are on the football team, all but Christina's boyfriend, Will. I love my friends and they are more like family to me. Most of the time I am wary of anyone trying to buddy up to me; usually, they're only after the status boost, and I have no interest in being used like that.

The last time we allowed anyone new to worm their way into our tight-knit group was when Christina started dating Will. I would never have expected Christina to go for a guy like Will, he isn't her usual type. She usually likes dumb jocks; he's one of the smartest guys in our class, and while Will is athletic, he isn't a football or basketball star, but rather runs cross-country and specializes in the butterfly stroke on the swim team. But when he was assigned to tutor Christina in Algebra II last spring, they somehow hit it off. Will has been a part of the group ever since, bringing Al along with him. I do like Will, though so it turned out fine, unlike the last time someone tried to join our group of friends. And Al isn't any trouble. A little bland, and I sometimes wonder if he's ever had a single independent thought, but he's harmless.

"So, Al," I say. "I hear you finally completed a dare. Uri decided to hide the evidence in my bedroom."

"Yep, no shots for me next weekend," Al chuckles.

Christina gratefully adds, "And no singing!"

"Well, you're up, then," Will says. We've been playing this game since the summer before last: an ongoing game of Dare. After you complete a dare, you choose the next person and dare them to do something and set the time limit. When Uriah dared Al to steal the stop sign, he gave Al two days to complete his mission.

"Okay," Al says. He looks around the room, eyes unfocused, then stops on me. His ears turn a little red. "Tris," he says. "I dare you to kiss someone in this room… but it can't be Uriah."

I groan right along with every one of my friends. That's no fun… what a lame dare! Al is trying to be nice and go easy on me, no doubt, but I'm the one that came up with this version of the game; I like the challenge! There is no challenge in this one. I'll have to make up for it when I give the next dare.

I bite my lip and look around the room. Uriah isn't really the jealous type, and I have no interest in kissing anyone but him, but we just had a fight earlier this week and made up yesterday morning. I'd rather not rock the boat by kissing his brother or something. So I decide on my best option, stand, and cross the room to the couch. Christina glares at me thinking I am going to kiss her boyfriend, but instead, I grab her face with both hands and pull her in for a kiss. Just for fun and to give the boys a little show, I draw it out a bit before letting go of her and snuggling back up to my boyfriend.

"Damn, you're a pretty good kisser, Tris," Christina laughs.

"Alright, well, that was easy," I say rolling my eyes. I look around the room for any ideas of what dare I can give when my eyes settle on the bookshelf. Christina's copy of Animal Farm from English class last month lays carelessly on top of a bunch of other, neatly arranged books, and a devious smile slowly curls at my lips. I know just the person to complete this dare.

"Zeke," I say, and he mock-salutes me. "I dare you to fill the atrium at school with farm animals, as a tribute to our evil dictator, Principal Matthews, within the next four days."

Shauna and Marlene both gasp, and Zeke's eyes go wide. "But there's no way to get to the atrium from outside," he protests. I smirk; Zeke has never refused a dare, almost never even argues about one like he is now.

"So?" I say. "I'm sure you'll find a way."

"I'll help," Uriah offers. "We'll get some ladders. Go over the roof. Tris, we'll need your truck when we go to 'borrow' the animals." Hell no, they aren't borrowing my truck! I'll just have to go along, drive it myself.

Zeke and Uriah continue making plans for a few minutes until Christina gets annoyed and changes the subject. Al tells us a rumor he heard about a new kid joining the football team; I don't believe it, this rumor's been going around for weeks and no one has shown up. It's already the end of September and I've never heard of anyone starting mid-season, anyway; Uriah claims that the guy is just that good, that they'll let him join late.

After we watch a movie, Zeke checks in with his brother. "You coming home tonight? Or staying with Tris?" he asks.

"I'll stay with Tris," Uriah says without looking to check with me. I've been practically living alone since shortly after Mom died. My brother, Caleb, is away at college; Dad is gone on business for months at a time, never staying long when he does come home. Uriah and Zeke both know how lonely I get living all alone. Then again, it's practically the same for Zeke and Uriah: their mom is home more than my dad, but they're on their own more often than not.

Besides, Uri is five beers in. If he's with me, I can make sure he doesn't do anything too dangerous or stupid.

Zeke mumbles something about calling Madison to come over; she must be his flavor of the week. Gross.

"You ready to get out of here?" Uriah whispers in my ear, then kisses my neck and gently squeezes my hip.

"Mmmhmm," I hum and pluck the keys out of his pocket before standing up.

I grab the almost empty box of beer and lead my slightly unsteady boyfriend out of Christina's house and to his Jeep.