I took the spot next to Tish's in the parking lot at school. She was leaning against the door of her bright yellow Bug with her arms folded across her chest. To anyone else walking by Tish would just look like she was in a contemplative state. Only a small crease across her forehead gave away the fact that she was still steaming.
I stepped out of my vehicle rather hesitantly. "Hey girl?" It came out as more of a question than a statement as my voice rose at the end. I knew her well enough to tell that she wanted to ball me out right then.
"I hate you, you know," A small glare marred her features. "That's what I called to say. How could you?"
Even angry, Tish was absolutely gorgeous. It just wasn't fair. I'm no size three with chestnut tresses and big brown eyes. If I were, I wouldn't be quite as self-conscious as Tish is. She could get just about every guy that comes her way—including Dave—and she just doesn't believe it.
Not that I'm saying I'm ugly or anything. I do all right for myself. It's just that instead of getting that "you look hot" statement, I always get the "you look cute." And tell me, who wants to be cute like a six-week-old kitten when you could be hot? The only feature I had to boast about was the fact that I wasn't the short five feet that Tish was. I at least had a little height on me.
"I know," I acquiesced. I wasn't very good at apologies, but I tried my hand anyway. Besides, part of me kind of believed that I did her a favor. Now Dave knew and it wasn't this big secret. The thing about Tish is that she kind of has this intimidating thing going on. She seems kind of inapproachable to guys because they're afraid she's going to turn them down. It's like this air that she carries around. But when guys got to know her, they weren't afraid anymore. Tish is one of those sweet people with a short-lived temper.
"You have every right to be mad at me," I said.
Tish stamped her foot—literally stamped her foot. She looked like some child having a temper tantrum. "Well, you're not supposed to agree with me right away!" She complained. "Then I can't be mad at you and feel good about it."
I could feel laughter bubbling up in me at that moment and it was all I could do to press it back down. Tish was far too honest for her own good. She said whatever she was thinking at the moment.
"I'm sorry I told Dave," I continued, and started moving toward the front doors, knowing that she'd come. "I promised I wouldn't say anything but I did. But honestly," I waved my hands about, looking for the right words, "I really don't think I did any harm. He likes you. I can tell."
Tish sent me a sidelong glance. "And pigs fly."
I swallowed guiltily. "Can you ever forgive me?"
Tish was still giving me that bummed look, her shoulders slouched slightly. Finally, she took a deep breath and spoke. "Eventually."
A boy interrupted their conversation, squeezing between the two girls. He draped an arm over each of their shoulders like they were old buddies. I could only see his muscled abs from my sidelong glance. I wasn't this friendly with any of the guys at school, so he had to be pretty confident to just walk up and embrace us like that. I glanced up and lost my breath into a pair of piercing blue eyes. No freaking way was I seeing what I thought I was seeing.
"Hey," Jay Rhiner said.
For a moment I was too shocked to answer. Sure, we had a lot of the same acquaintances and went to a lot of the same parties, but this was way too much. I'd barely said more than a few hellos or how's it going to the guy in my life. And now he was draping his nicely muscled arm across my shoulder. Where did this transformation come from?
I found my voice. "Jay!"
Tish chimed in her own greeting.
"How are you feeling?" Jay asked me. His glance was probing—like he expected something to be wrong with me. My frazzled brain and pattering heart couldn't quite make the connection at that moment. Sure, I felt like I'd been through a rockslide, but you don't just generally come up with an answer like that in a normal conversation. "Uh…"—I need to answer him like now! Before there's an awkward pause issue! Scrambling through my brain just wasn't working—"okay."
"You sure?" he asked with raised eyebrows. "At the party—"
"Oh, that!" I exclaimed. "I'm a little sore."
"Yeah, you caused quite a commotion," he said with a nervous laugh. "You really scared me. One minute you were talking and laughing on the deck. The next you were falling over the side. What made you jump? You suicidal or something?"
"Nah," I said, feeling a little miffed about the suicidal comment. Risky? maybe. Suicidal? No. What I said was, "Just drunk."
"Well, I did provide the beer," he said, taking responsibility. "So how about if I take you to Kurik's sometime and buy you a cruller? Would you call that even?"
"Sure." My stomach flip-flopped. I was very aware of the fact that his arm was still draped across my shoulder, sending warm tingles down my spine.
"Great!" He grinned his bad boy grin. He squeezed past them and turned in a parting gesture. "So I'll see you around?"
We both nodded. When he was too far away to notice, Tish jabbed me in the stomach with her elbow. Hard, too.
"Ow!" I responded.
"See who gets all the guys!" She remarked.
"Hah!" I raised my eyebrows at her with a cynical stare. Despite the face that I could still feel the heat where Jay's hand had rested only minutes before, my brain wasn't quite so frazzled anymore. I knew why he had come to talk to us. Or, at least, I suspected.
"Tish," I explained. "He's just making sure I don't file a lawsuit against him. He probably doesn't even know my name. I'm just the girl who fell off the deck at his party last night. Besides," I added. "He's dating Lena."
Much to my chagrin.
We pushed open the double doors and proceeded into the corridor.
"Let's head to the courtyard," I suggested innocently.
Tish gripped my arm and replied sharply. "Don't you dare!"
We both were very aware that the courtyard was where the skater types hung out before school. And if skaters were there, then Dave would be there too. Tish was getting goose bumps because of my suggestion. She whispered through gritted teeth, "I'm embarrassed enough as it is!"
I just shook my head. I was absolutely positive that Dave had a thing for her—and why Tish couldn't see this was beyond me. But I wasn't going to push. I still had a best friend and I wanted to keep it that way.
As it turned out, we didn't even need to go to the courtyard. There was a guy standing just beyond the display cases, leaning casually against the windows that looked out into the Junior parking lot. He had a skateboard tucked under one arm. Technically, students weren't allowed to bring their skateboards on campus. No one enforced the rules so long as the students didn't skate in the halls.
He pulled a hand through his floppy blond hair and dragged himself away from the wall. He eyed Tish with a diffident smile. "Hey Tish," he began hesitantly and made only a minute glance in my direction. "Hey Bri."
Tish was responding just as shyly, her cheeks tinged with pink. "Hey, Dave."
I offered my hello, but to be honest, I really don't think he was paying any attention to my response just then. His full focus was on Tish at that moment.
"So I haven't seen you guys since the party."
I rolled my eyes. The party had been last night. When had he expected to see her? But Tish was responding as if this was some profound comment. They both sounded like infatuated idiots—which, of course, they were.
See? This is why you don't date, I told myself. But I knew this wasn't true. I would have given a lot to know what it was like to have a guy look at me that way. And to be truly lost in the moment.
Dave was tossing his skateboard from one hand to the other as he spoke. He couldn't seem to keep from fidgeting. His eyes lit up all of the sudden. "Hey! How about if you guys come eat lunch with me and my buds today?"
Tish grinned eagerly. "We'd love to!"
"Cool," Dave headed off reluctantly with the warning bell.
Tish gripped my arm in a death grip. She exclaimed. "I so do not hate you anymore!"
"Glad to hear it." I tried to shake her loose. She was making red imprints in my arm without noticing it. "Uh, Tish? Can you let go of my arm?"
"What? Oh!" Tish couldn't help but add in a squeal. "He likes me!"
I laughed. "You okay?" I mocked.
Tisha's sickly dreamy mood lasted all day. Lunch was a horrid affair. My love struck best friend and her skater dude kept shooting glances at each other and playing footsie under the table. Luckily, their shyness wore off pretty quickly.
But each moment I spent with them was a reminder. A reminder that I was sixteen and that I had never been kissed. Sad, huh? But true. I guess that popularity doesn't really mean lucky. Not that I was all that popular, but at least I was in the fringe of the group. I was certainly not Prom Queen material—or even part of the court.
I was glad when sixth period finally came around. I'd just had an embarrassing run in with Jay. Tish had finally convinced me that he was hitting on me this morning. I wish I'd told her she was full of it. But hopeful and deluded me just said, "Really? You think so?"
I sauntered up to him just before sixth period. He was laughing raucously with tow of his biker friends, Paul and Ribber. Not many people knew why they called him Ribber, but it was kind of a creepy name. It went right along with his creepy personality. But enough about Ribber. I didn't really care about him. I had eyes only for Jay.
I walked up casually, acting like I fit right in with the group. "Hey Jay," I said.
He looked up with a quick smile. "Oh, hey Brittney!"
My hopes fell. He really didn't know my name.
"It's Bri," I couldn't help but correct.
"Sorry, Bri," he said. "Hey, look. My schedule's really packed this week. Can you take a rain cheque on the cruller?"
I knew we'd never really have that cruller. It was one of those sometime in the future invitations that never really happened. I wasn't important enough to be on his to do list. I headed off to class with my cheeks slightly flaming. Just my luck, I had Chemistry next—with Lena. I'd have to listen to her all period while she said "Jay is this," or "Jay is that."
had a lab that day. "I want you to pair up in twos," Mr. Jacoby
was saying. "You'll both be responsible for your own write up…"
I glanced around the room. Most people were already making eye contact with a partner. I noticed Jason glancing over at me expectantly. I inwardly cringed. He's been after me ever since I let him borrow a pencil last year. I hated to call anyone a geek, but there was no word that suited Jason better. When a guy finds a way to say you're dimwitted when he's trying to compliment you, there's just no other way to spell it out. So I don't make straight A's. So what? How does that make me stupid?
I noticed that Lena didn't have a partner yet. Lena was no cupcake, but I'd do anything to avoid another breathy discussion about the structure of a tapeworm.
"…so have at it," the teacher finished.
I asked Lena to be my partner. Low move, huh? We both hate each other but we pretend we don't on occasion. Can you believe she used to be one of my best friends in sixth grade? That was before she stole my favourite shirt. The one I'd begged my mom to buy me for weeks. After that, it had been war.
We started out on pretty good terms during the first half of the lab, despite her long explanations about Jay's accomplishments. But as usual, she just had to stick an insult in somewhere.
"I heard you still haven't had a real boyfriend," she brought up.
I shrugged and lied, feeling my face heat up with the accusation. "I've had a few flings," I muttered.
Lena turned up the Bunsen burner with a smirk. "What, like Jason?"
"I've never dated Jason," I said through gritted teeth.
I felt the urge to dump the chemical solution on her. I resisted the urge. I was way too friggin' wimpy anyway. Despite what my mother believes, I'm not that much of a troublemaker.
"Jay and I have been dating for three months now," she announced. She held out her hand admiringly. "He even gave me his class ring."
"How nice for you," I replied shortly.
Lena smirked, marring her perfect model features. "You know, if it's really that hard to find a boyfriend, you could always look lower down the chain. Maybe you're looking a little too far above your class."
I gave her a "ha ha" expression, but the blow hurt. "Who needs guys?" I muttered. "They're Neanderthals."
Lena gave me a look of pained sympathy. It was so fake that I wanted to wipe it right from her face.
"You wouldn't say that if you had a boyfriend like mine."
I took a deep breath. Too bad the counting to ten just wasn't working. "You know what, Lena?" I responded. "Shut your trap."
She raised her hands, pretending to be al innocent. "Hey, I was just trying to give you some advice. Go ahead and be a social pariah for all I care."
I bit my lip and looked away. It just wasn't worth it. But I couldn't help feeling like I wanted to spite her. Maybe she was right. Maybe the fact that I didn't have a boyfriend looked bad. I was ashamed to admit that I hoped no one else had noticed.