Chapter Seven: Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours
I carry around a major case of the weepies for the rest of the day, so Casey leaves me alone for the most part other than ordering a large cheese pizza with extra sauce and a letting me borrow her copy of Flash Dance to make me feel better. But my mind won't stop reeling—why did he leave? Was it because of what happened? Was it because of me? My life wasn't an episode of Dawson's Creek, this shit shouldn't be happening to me. I ignore Casey's advice about calling Danny and I text him instead because I'm sure that if I try to talk to him, I'll break down over the phone. He doesn't seem to mind when he responds with a whimsical 'can't wait ;)'.
I systematically work my way through the classics—some early John Hughs flicks, anything with Ralph Machio or Billy Zabka. And some Michael J. Fox. I mean, what is an 80s movie marathon without Teen Wolf?
Nothing, that's what.
I'm about halfway done blubbering through Can't Buy Me Love when there are several loud knocks on the door that cut through my brain with heated precision. Crying so much has given me a serious migraine that rivals the one that plagued me all throughout my first viewing of Glitter, and loud noises such as plates shifting and crashing in the sink or knocking on doors have become my sworn enemy.
It's probably Harp, wanting food or to physically harm me in some way, and I should ignore it, but before I can convince myself that the couch is the safest place to be I've already shuffled myself over to the door in my Cookies n' Cream ice-cream and Advil haze.
Danny. Standing there in his shorts and his t-shirt and sandals like he's straight out of SoCal. And I'm a wreck, still crying, there in front of him. My hands absently start trying to pet my hair down. And the only thing I can think of to say is, "Why is it never Harp?"
A puzzled looks lines his face, "What?"
"Nothing," I sniffle. "What are you…doing here?"
"I just wanted to talk to you. Casey told me you were having a rough time, 'cause of that Jack guy, and I thought I'd…come over and try to make you feel better," he shrugs. He holds up a plastic bag, "I brought provisions."
We settle down on the sofa, and all I can think about is the fact that even though Danny and I aren't anything official, practically seconds after he left after our date last night I wound up having another guy get me off on a fire escape, where I told him I loved him. Again.
I feel like such a slut.
I try to edge my way to the far side of the couch—I don't deserve to be anywhere near a guy as nice as Danny after all the things that have happened with Jack, but he just scoots closer and leans into me without question. He's probably been in dozens of relationships before, and he probably knows exactly what to do, and I'm just…awkward and loser-y in my Wolverine robe and pink pajama bottoms.
"Anyone ever tell you that you and Patrick Dempsey share some freakish resemblance?" he asks, and I can feel his breath on the side of his face. It smells like Listerine. Clean cut and sporty.
"My mom. A lot. She thinks it's the coolest thing in the world. I also think it's part of the reason why she secretly loves me more than Harp. That, and I'm not a first rate jackass. "
"I think it's the hair," he's staring at me, head in his hand, elbow leaning against the back of the couch. His other hand sneaks up, fingers twining into the curls of my hair. Chills run down my spine as he tugs lightly.
"You mean my pseudo-Jew 'fro?" smooth. "That gets me some points, but the extra pudge immediately detracts them."
"Hm," Danny hums. He leans in and kisses my jaw, and suddenly I can feel his arm snake around my waist with his hand squeezing my hip, and I hold back the small squeak that's working its way up my throat. "I like your pudge. I like guys with some meat on their bones."
I laugh awkwardly, "just don't pull a Jeffrey Dahmer and...y'know, eat me."
Cannibalism jokes. Nice one, Jory. Nice one.
He snorts, "I'll try to restrain myself." His teeth nip at my throat and I can't keep quiet any longer, and I automatically jerk away out of reflex. He sighs, leaning his forehead against my shoulder, "Sorry."
"No, it's not that, I just…" I flash a small, crooked grin. "My situation's kind of in the shitter right now and Casey told me not to mention it 'cause it's a total boner kill—her words, not mine—but the thing is…there's a whole lot of drama for your mama happening right now and I don't want you to get sucked into it without knowing because I just…I like you, y'know? But I understand if you don't want to get mixed up in this stupid shit."
"I know," Danny says after a beat, "Last night really said it all."
"I'm still really sorry about that," I jump in. He smiles. It's the kind of smile that lets me know that he doesn't have a clue.
"You don't have to be. Listen," he's looking me right in the eye, and I can feel my heart hammering inside of my ribcage. "I know there's something between you and Jack. Casey kind of alluded to a lot of stuff. But, if you're willing to try something with me…I promise, I won't give a shit about that guy. He means nothing to me. You…you could mean a lot to me. You're so awesome, Jory, and I want to show you, and I want to try…with you. Fuck that guy, okay? He can dump any amount of imitation Mexican food that he wants on me, but he won't scare me off because I like you."
I've waited four years to hear those words, but from someone else's mouth, and I feel bad that while he's saying all of these wonderful things all I can picture is Jack's face.
But Danny is just so…sweet. He's so soft and caring and nice (and like Casey said, he probably never fell off a potato truck in his life, whatever the hell that means). And he's staring at me so hard with genuine blue eyes that are only on mine. And I know that I can just…trust him. He's perfect.
But he's not Jack Carter.
I inhale sharply, push Jack's face out of my mind, and kiss Danny square on the mouth.
"Jack's being featured in a gallery."
I look up from my Trig homework. My mom is shifting through her Blackberry, sipping on lemonade out of the carton even though she always yells at me for doing that. Jack's name has become kind of taboo around me—Casey never mentions him, Harp has no reason to, and Danny, when we seldom talk about it, just refers to Jack as "that guy". This is the first time I've heard his name physically spoken for a while now, and it sends a chill rushing up my spine.
Casual, I tell myself, "Really?"
"Yeah. He just sent me an e-mail. He went back to talk to an old professor and showed him his portfolio, who showed it to a colleague who got a few pieces put into a gallery showing in a couple of weeks," she sighs with a light smile on her face. "It's nice to see his art is finally going somewhere. He was always too talented for this town."
"Yeah," I shift uncomfortably in my chair. "So he's doing okay?"
"Seems so," she sits down across from me at the table. A beat, and she sighs, "Listen Jory, I know you've had a thing for Jack for a long time now—"
"Wait, what?" I blink rapidly. "How would you know that? I just came out to you, like, a week ago."
"Oh," she coughs awkwardly into the back of her hand. "Well the thing is, sweetie, a mother always knows, and well…I've known since you were about seven and did that lip-sync routine to Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" in a pair of my Sergio Rossi's for your elementary school talent show."
I gawk at her, "Then why did you make such a big deal out of it when I told you the other day?"
"Oh, that," she snorts, waving hand at me dismissively, "I missed last week's new Glee episode and I was in desperate need for some entertainment."
I push myself up from the table back, chair screeching against the linoleum as I gave her a disgusted look, "You're a sick, sick woman."
"I know. Why do you think your father and I got divorced in the first place?"
"I thought it was because dad was a lying chauvinist who had a thing for strippers with Disney princess names."
"Well, that too—but it was mostly due to my tendency to soak tampons in red food die and hang them from his rearview mirror."
"So I'm going to assume you've already heard about Jack?"
I slam my locker door shut and listen to it rattle, "Yeah. Good for him, y'know?"
"I guess," Casey sighs and leans back against the wall of metal lockers holding the student population's drugs, books, papers, and Justin Beiber pictures. "But it's not fair—he puts you through all that shit, tears your life to shreds, and then runs away to the city to get his own stupid life together. Swear to God, sometimes I just wanna slap that boy."
"Like Britney and Bobby Brown say—that's your prerogative."
"Because both of them are such positive role models an impressionable teenage girl such as myself should be taking advice from." Casey leans in, "Aren't you angry about this? I'm angry about this—why aren't you angry about this?"
"I'm just so…done with him, Case," I start zip up my backpack. "I want to be with him, and he wants to be with me, but he has his own stupid hang ups about this whole age thing so the closest I'm ever gonna get to being with him is when he has his fucking moments of weakness. And you know what? I don't deserve that. I deserve to be treated respectfully with active lines of communication between us, insecurities checked at the door."
Casey blinks, "Wow. Someone's been watching a lot of Tyra."
"Now I just have to work on my smeye-zing and I'm set," I sigh. "I'm gonna go all in with Danny. One-hundred percent, head first, no regrets. I want to make this thing work."
"Well Rory Gilmore, I'm really happy you're dating Dean again, but you know the second Jess comes back to town you'll be all over him at Sookie's wedding like R. Kelly's urine on an underage girl."
"I knew I never should've lent you those Gilmore Girls DVDs."
"Would you rather be Kirk in my extended metaphor?"
"Only if you're Miss Patty."
"Done," she nods. She looks over his shoulder casually, scanning the halls, before her gaze suddenly halts, "Oh god…"
"What?" I stop alongside her, adjusting my bag and letting my brow crease.
"Nothing, just…" I can't remember the last time I saw Casey blush—but there it is, a deep pink blooming across her cheeks. "It's Adam Peruzzi." When I crane my neck to look over the top of her head to see, she screeches in a whisper, "No! Don't look!"
"Why?" I whisper back.
"Because, I don't want him to know we're talking about him," she shrugs uncomfortably, folding her arms across her chest defensively. "He's just so weird. I mean…he used to eat ants when we were in third grade."
"Well I doubt he does that anymore," I grin, finally able to lean to the side and catch a glimpse of Adam standing near the bathroom with two friends in his patent faux-leather cowboy boots, looking over at Casey every few moments with a tiny smile on his face. "He's cute."
"Shut up, okay? All he does in English is…talk to me. Ask me questions. Always wants to know what happened in last night's reading because he forgot to do it," I've never seen Casey this distressed. I can't stop the grin that spreads out over my face.
"I think the reason he's always talking to you is because he likes you. And I think the reason you're blushing is because you like him back. And I bet you a million dollars he always reads but just pretends that he forgot so he has an excuse to turn around and talk to you," I smirk.
"Fuck you, I do not. Adam Peruzzi's is just so…jock-like. It'd never work. I play bass for the school band. He's on like every friggin' team this school has. I just…no. No, no, no, no," she shakes her head viciously, and I have to put my hands on each side of her face to stop her.
"This entire time I've been so wrapped up in my Jack Carter drama I didn't even notice," I gasp out, "You have the biggest fucking crush ever." She's silent for a moment too long, "Holy crap—you haven't liked anyone since you had that weird-ass crush on me in the fifth grade. Did I ever tell you how weird that was? Because it was really freakin' weird."
"Shut up, I thought we agreed to never speak of that again," she sneers. She looks back over his shoulders quickly, as discreetly as possible. "Is he still looking over here?"
I rise to my toes, "Yep. Looks like he's talking about you to his friends, because they're looking over here too."
"Oh Jesus," she puts a hand to her head. "This is not happening. He used to pull on my hair at recess when we were kids. And he stole my Play-Doh right out of my cubby that one time. He has an accent."
"Australian, to be specific. He's like Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You. Ohmygod, you're so Julia Stiles," I laugh, "the fact that you're wearing a Bikini Kill shirt right now just makes this moment all the more perfect."
"Can I just point out that there is no possible way you could be any gayer right now?" she moves closer to me. "I can feel him staring at me. You'd think he'd go Google images of a Monet painting or something if he wanted to look at something that's nicer from far away. Not that he'd even know who Monet is…"
"Can I just apologize to you in advance?" I ask her, leaning in.
Her eyebrows knit together, "Why?"
"This," I step back with a smile and say in a much louder voice. "Sorry Casey, I can't give you a ride home—Nana's in the hospital again. It's that damn shell fish, she just can't stay away. Maybe someone, someone who just happened to be within ear-shot and has a car, else can give you, Casey Coughlin, a lift."
"I've got a car."
Casey practically jumps out of her flushed skin when Adam's voice coming ringing in from behind her.
"Really Adam?" I gasp. "It wouldn't be any trouble?"
"Nah, none at all," he shrugs, hands in his pockets, grin on his face. He looks at Casey, "I'd be happy to."
"No," she says weakly. "Really, I can walk…"
"Casey—our apartment building is across town," I stress. "It takes two hours by foot to get there. Don't be ridiculous. Not to mention that crazy rapist is on the loose…One-Legged Ralph."
She shoots me the most scathing look "One-Legged Ralph?"
"Yeah, he pretends he's war-vet with only one leg who's fallen out of his wheel chair and then—WHAM. He gets you," I jump at her for effect, but she holds her glare. "So it's settled then. I'll go see Nana, you give Casey a ride home, and whatever else happens…happens."
"Death, slow and painful," Casey says in a voice so low that Adam only catches pieces of words.
"Well let's got a move on, shall we? Here, let me take these for you," Adam carefully pulls the books out of her arms and her bag off her shoulder, slinging it over his own. "My car's right outside."
Casey sputters, "But…I…" When Adam starts walking away, she looks to me, "He took my stuff."
"Breathe, Casey," I whisper. "Oh, and he drives a convertible, so…" I tug the ponytail out of her hair and watch the dark red cascade across her shoulders. Perfect. She makes an angry move to grab it but I hold it behind my back.
"Casey?" Adam asks, "You coming?"
"Yeah, she is," I spin her around and give her a small shove. "Hey Adam?"
"Yeah mate?" he looks back.
"What do you think of Monet?" I ask simply, crossing my arms over his chest. Casey glares.
"Meh, his stuff is pretty. I'm a Frida Kahlo kinda guy m'self," he grins at Casey, who looks like she's just melted on the inside.
"Hey, Jory Kilver."
It's not that I don't like Jean DeMayo. It's just her voice, and the way she always calls everyone by their first and last name at the same time, like its proof that she really knows a person, and the way she smears makeup across her face that probably would've been relatively cute if she'd just wash some of it off. Bright pink lipstick, rogue all over her cheeks, and glittery eye shadow—and pink Uggs. But you can tell she doesn't mean bad, just…talking to her can suck the life out of a person.
"Hey Jean…DeMayo," I make a quick face that I hope she doesn't catch—but she just scrunches up her painted eyes and lets out a loud giggle.
"Jory Kilver," she laughs, "I just knew you and Danny would hit it off. I mean, you're totally his type—not like all of those other schmucks he's dated. Oh Lord, I'll spare you the details, but let me just say this—eyebrow piecing. God, my Aunt Edna was practically sobbing."
"Oh, wow," I say, unsure, but she's too wrapped up in her own whirlwind of thoughts to spare me realization.
"But she'll just love you. Ugh, I'm so happy. I can't wait for Easter—you're coming over, right? Danny would absolutely lovelovelove it if you did. And so would the rest of the fam," she gushes. Ugh, Paige Michael-Chuck slang. Gag me.
I lie through my teeth, "I'm Jewish. I'm not sure how my mother would feel about that…"
She pauses, only for a moment before, "Didn't we make communion together in second grade?"
Yes, "No. No. That must've been someone else other than me. Not me. Being Jewish and all…not accepting Jesus as my personal savior, having three sets of plates, doing the whole Kosher thing…"
"Oh," her expression falters. "Well, maybe some other Holiday then."
"Yeah," I nod enthusiastically, "Some other Holiday. Preferably something nondenominational."
"Okay, well—oh, before I forget," she swings her bag around off of her shoulder and starts fishing through it before pulling out a folded slip of paper. "Danny told me to give this to you. Said he could've texted you but thought this was more romantic."
We stand there for a second, like she's expecting me to read it in front of her—but when a solid thirty second passes and I just stuff it into my pocket, she takes the hint and sighs, trudging back down the hall with a simple wave goodbye. And the chorus of angels in my head rejoices in gospel song.
Danny drives back and we spend Sunday together. He tells me not to sweat it about the Easter thing, and I let out a breath of air that felt like it'd been held in for days. He takes me mini-golfing, and it's disgustingly embarrassing but I smile and play anyway, because it's also disgustingly sweet.
Casey ignores me for a grand total of three hours before spilling ever single, microscopic detail about Adam and their drive home. "He smells like rootbeer, Jory."
"You love rootbeer, Case."
"Yeah. I really, really do."
Harp and I even get on exceptionally well all week—due to the fact that he decides to stay at his place. I get all of my school crap taken care of before break, my mom shows some drool-worthy shots from the editorial that's going in Vogue, and finally life just seems to be slowing down, and I can breathe.
But if I've learned anything in my sixteen years of life, other than that red makes me look fat and Firefly was canceled way before it's time, is that things can never stay calm for long.
Note: I told myself I wasn't going to put that many pop culutre references in this chapter...but things happen you're running on re-reheated coffee and watching the entire first season of Heroes at three in the morning. Thanks to all the lovely reviews 3