"I thought you said you had sisters, Eve," Helena says in a bored tone of voice, and Eve Sheffield winces. "Where are they? How come we've never met them? We're going to meet them tonight, right?"
Eve hesitates. "Um. No," she admits finally, "probably not. They don't live here."
As the other girls exchange worried glances, no doubt picking up on Eve's own nervousness, Helena lets out an overdramatic gasp. "Did your parents split up? Oh my god, why didn't you tell us!?"
"No!" Eve protests quickly. (How in the world could she have thought it was a good idea to invite Helena Campbell to her eleventh birthday party?) "No, they're... in Europe."
Helena laughs mockingly. "Right. Sure they are, Evie."
Eve flinches. No one but family gets to call her that. "They are," she insists. "Maggie lives there with her husband. He's a model. And Grace is studying abroad."
"So, what, they're old? Because unless they're both, like, in their twenties or thirties, you're lying to us."
She narrows her eyes. "Maggie is thirty-one. Grace is twenty-three. I'm not a liar."
"And you're just eleven?" Helena says with a surprisingly vicious laugh. "What, were you and your brother an accident, or something?"
Eve sees red, her eyes narrowing as her lips part in a snarl. "No, I was not, you--!"
"Hey, kids!" Eve's mother, just as usual, chooses the absolute worst time to walk into the room. "The boys are already downstairs getting ready for cake and pizza; how about you girls come on down and join us?"
Eve sits silently for a moment, crossing her arms defiantly over her chest. There is a not-so-small part of her that wants to tell Helena to go call her parents and get a ride home because she's not welcome here anymore... but Ma was the one who encouraged her to invite the most popular girls in her class, and so perhaps it's not the best idea to un-invite one right in front of her.
"Yeah," Eve says, a bit too sullen--and of course her mother notices immediately--and stands. "Come on. Let's go."
The gaggle of preteen girls follows Fran Fine down the stairs. The crackling voices of preteen boys, punctuated by the lone adult voice of her father, awaits them in the dining room, and Eve's brows lift when she turns the corner into the room. "Brighton?" she asks, stunned.
Her half-brother smiles at her. "Hey, birthday girl." He nods at the others. "And birthday girl's friends." At Eve's side, Helena's eyes are round as saucers as she stares at the (admittedly handsome) thirty-year-old. "Give me a hug, Evie."
Eve darts into her brother's arms, smiling genuinely for the first time since Helena crossed the threshold. "I didn't know you were coming!" she gushes, squeezing him tight. When they part, she gives her mother an accusatory glance. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Fran lifts her hands up in a gesture of innocence. "I didn't know, angel!"
"Didn't know about what?"
Eve's heart does a somersault as she recognizes the voice. Grace steps into the dining room, Maggie and her husband close behind her, and Eve's smile is so wide it could split her face in two. "Oh my god!" she exclaims, and she practically launches herself into her sisters' arms. They're both caught off guard but clearly pleased; she hears Maggie laughing happily, and Grace leans down to give her a kiss on the cheek. "Did you think any of us were going to miss your birthday? Come on!"
Eve turns back to her mother, who simply gives her an innocent grin and goes to join her father at the head of the dining table.
From her place in her sisters' arms, Eve catches Helena's eye. I told you so, she mouths as clearly as she can, and then she sticks out her tongue. It might be childish, but so what? It's her party.
Helena crossed her own arms over her chest, sits down at the dining table, and sulks. Eve's family doesn't even notice.
The Sheffields are back together again.