Gossip, Set and Match by Koosie
Chapter 33: Easier Said than Done
To: Nicci Shultz
From: Mackenzie Carwyn
Subject: Can you post this for me?
Below are my final words as Fairy Gossipmonger. Would you do me the favor of just posting it on the South Creek Express blog?
Dear South Creekers,
I'd be a hypocrite if I said I hated rumors. During my days as Fairy Gossipmonger, you could say that I thrived on them. So it's really only fair that now that my identity is the talk of the school that there'd be numerous rumors swirling about me. My purpose here is not to dispute any of them. In fact, there's probably more truth rooted in them than you might think because despite all the good intentions that I had in becoming Fairy Gossipmonger, I probably ended up doing more harm than good.
I can't even really claim full credit for the idea behind Fairy Gossipmonger. The credit goes to someone who I had overheard lamenting about how if only she knew for sure the guy she had a crush on liked her back, life would be so much easier. And somehow I thought it should be my job to fulfill that wish. The truth was, I was probably feeling much lonelier than I would ever admit to myself (or to anyone else for that matter) and suddenly I was presented with a mission that after numerous days of stalking, I did successfully complete since the girl with the crush was actually trusting enough to accept the help of busybody stranger.
This feeling of being able to bring joy to others with my mysterious work – it was addicting. By assuming the role of Fairy Gossipmonger, that loneliness that I hadn't even been fully aware of suddenly didn't seem so strikingly present anymore. So as the emails began pouring in, I immersed myself into gossip gathering and matchmaking to the point that I was snooping into things that were absolutely none of my business and pushing together people who probably weren't meant to be all for some deranged sense of satisfaction that I was actually the bringer of love and joy. In short, I was out of control.
So in essence, this is my formal apology to you all. I apologize for being such a busybody pretending that I should be privy to all your crushes and secrets just because I had self appointed myself school matchmaker. And I apologize for thinking that I knew best when it came to all matters of the heart. In the process, I've deceived many people, sent people the wrong messages and hurt a lot of people along the way. It was never my intention, but it was selfish of me to have ended up doing so nonetheless.
Having made all these apologies, though, I still don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to bring others happiness by trying to help someone win over their crush. I had just gone at things the wrong way. I should never had done so under the cloak of anonymity as it gave me the sense of too much power. Instead, I should have just done so as a known friend. It is something that I hope can do in the future. Be the cheerleader to anyone who needs an extra nudge to win over his or her crush. Because if there is one thing that I have learned, it's that sometimes you just have to take the risk. We all like knowing exactly what we are getting ourselves into before we put ourselves and all our feelings out there. I know this need better than most. It's why Fairy Gossipmonger was probably so appealing to so many of you. But a dear friend once told me, perhaps what makes a relationship so special is the fact that you are willing to cast aside all uncertainties and put your heart on the line for that other person. With the way that Fairy Gossipmonger and some of the matches I've made have crashed and burned, he's probably right. So I invite you all to join me in taking the leap and letting the ones we care about know just how we feel, even if we are unsure if the feelings would be reciprocated. And for those of you who still are a little hesitant, I'd be honored to cheer you on. Not as Fairy Gossipmonger, but merely as Mackie Carwyn.
"Where can I sign up for a boy like that?" Nicci asked me as I arrived at school to find that Reese was humoring me with my request by leaving yet another daisy at my locker. "I'm assuming you and Reese made up properly then?"
I just smiled and tucked the pretty white flower into my locker. "You could say that."
"Or did you more than just make up?" Nicci suggested in a sing-songy voice.
"No, nothing like that," I hissed. I glanced around making sure that Reese was nowhere nearby to catch what Nicci was insinuating.
"But that's what you're hoping for? That's what you were alluding to in this right?" Nicci held a copy of the South Creek Express, tapping at a particular article. Snatching the paper from her hands, I looked at the words she was indicating to with disbelief. It was the farewell letter from Fairy Gossipmonger that I had typed out last night and sent to Nicci with the request to share on the school's blog. Despite Nicci keeping it updated regularly as a supplement to the school's paper, no one ever really read the online blog. It was the perfect medium for my last words as Fairy Gossipmonger. After all the drama, I had wanted to end things with Fairy Gossipmonger on my terms, but didn't want to call any more attention to myself.
"How?" I asked, still shocked Nicci managed to add it to the paper before it needed to be printed and distributed this morning.
"I have my ways," was all Nicci would cryptically reveal.
"But I just wanted you to put it on the blog."
"Trust me, dear Mackie, Fairy Gossipmonger needed a better send off than that. After you took the time to write all that, I wasn't going to place it where on a good week we get ten views."
"That was the whole point," I wailed. I didn't want everyone to read it. I just needed it placed somewhere that I could tell myself that I at least tried to put myself out there. I should have known better than to trust Nicci with that task.
"You'll be glad to know that I did fight the urge to put it as the cover story," Nicci said as if that was some sort of consolation. I continued to frown as I stared at the paper. I suddenly felt ten times more vulnerable.
In a fit of determination, I had promised myself last night that I was going to tell Reese just how I felt the next time that I saw him. I was going to march right up to him and tell him that I lied yesterday. I didn't want to be just friends. I wanted more and I wasn't going to pretend that wasn't the case any longer. It was what led me to imply of my plans in my Fairy Gossipmonger letter as the extra silent push. Now, in the light of day though, my courage was definitely waning. Especially now that I knew that my intentions were in the hands of the entire student body to read.
"I'm so grateful," I responded, my words laced with sarcasm.
"It's a good piece. It deserves to be read," Nicci tried to reassure me.
I sighed. "It's right there in print, not like I can argue much with you about it now."
"That's the spirit." Nicci patted me on the shoulder with a smile before her expression hardened. "On to the other matter of business. Are you really sure you want nothing done about Angela?"
"Nothing," I insisted looking around yet again to make sure there were no eavesdroppers.
"Are you sure? Even after what she did to you?" Nicci asked her voice dropping so that only I could hear.
"Yes. I can't put all the blame on her. It's better if we all just move on."
"OK. Well then I'm just going to give it a few more weeks and as long as nothing else occurs, I'll just tell Principal Kinsen that I'm giving up my search. In the meantime, if you change your mind, just let me know. I'll make sure to keep you out of it and take all the blame for leaking her name."
"I won't be changing my mind, but thanks Nicci. I have the best of friends."
Nicci smiled. "Girl, you know, this is the sort of thing I live for. Serving justice with a side of drama. Besides, just living up to my standards. It's either be the best or bust."
I laughed. "Wouldn't expect anything less from you, Nicci."
"So, what's next for Mackenzie Carwyn now that you've laid Fairy Gossipmonger to rest?" Nicci asked conspiratorially as if I would actually have something else up my sleeve."
"Do you actually expect me to have some sort of answer to that? I'm just happy to be able go back to being drama-free Mackie who no one pays attention to."
"Drama-free but not boyfriend-free, yes?" Nicci wiggled her eyebrows at me suggestively. "I can provide my assistance in that area as well."
I gave her an annoyed shove. "Haven't you done enough damage for one day?"
"Never," Nicci teased as she gave me a wave and sauntered off.
Despite my initial unease about Nicci publishing my Fairy Gossipmonger piece in the paper, it wasn't seeming to create much of a ripple through the recent calm at school. It had me thinking that perhaps I could quietly clear up the rest of the Fairy Gossipmonger loose ends without any more unexpected mayhem.
Even minus any new mayhem, the tying up of loose ends part of things was proving to be a much larger undertaking. I had made quite the frayed mess during my reign. And that included Zach Bent. So when I saw him at his locker right at the start of the lunch period, a copy of the South Creek Express in hand, I sucked in a breath and approached him with a smile. He deserved a much better apology and explanation from me.
"Mackie," he greeted, noticing my approach before I could devise my first words to him.
"Hi," I said timidly. "Can we talk?"
"I read your piece." Zach lifted up the newspaper still in his hand, automatically figuring out what I was here to talk about.
"I'm really sorry."
"You keep saying that," Zach pointed out. "But now I think I get why. The reason you showed interest in me wasn't because you liked me. It was because someone else liked me, wasn't it?"
I could only nod, which elicited a somber smile out of Zach. "You must think I'm despicable."
Zach shook his head. "I can't say the truth makes me feel great. Actually, I feel pretty stupid for thinking that you must have liked me."
I placed my hands over my ears. "I'm not hearing any of this. The truth is, a girl must be pretty stupid to not appreciate the attention from an amazing guy like you."
Zach gave an exaggerated stroke of his chin. "You could be right."
"I'm definitely right. I completely ignored the possibility that I might be stringing you on because I was so fixated on the idea that there was someone else more perfect for you and once I got you to realize that, you'd forget any thoughts you might have had about me."
"Do you still think that?"
My head bobbed up and down eagerly. "That I do."
"But you won't tell me who this person is."
"Nope, not my secret to tell," I declared with a lip-zipping gesture.
"What if I guessed correctly?"
"You'll just get my poker face."
"Alison Larimer," Zach threw out after a moment's contemplation. I tried to keep my face as straight as possible despite the fact that I was a little disappointed he hadn't said Katrina. And I shouldn't have been. Up until a few weeks ago, I was also trying to help Alison win Zach's attention. It was only at Maddie's urging that I had decided to focus my efforts more towards Katrina. But deep in my gut I still felt I had pick the right girl, even if Zach didn't seem to have her number one in the running.
"What?" I asked realizing that Zach was frowning at me.
Squinting his eyes at me, he tapped a finger to his cheek. "Either you do have a really good poker face and are trying to confuse me with your current expression, or you didn't quite like my guess." So I had a terrible poker face.
"The real question," I said mirroring Zach's appearance of intense scrutiny while diverting things away from what I thought about his guess, "is how you feel about that being the correct answer."
Zach laughed. "Good point."
"So?" I urged, still wanting to hear his thoughts. Fairy Gossipmonger may be done, but Reese was right that I couldn't stop these tendencies in me.
"I actually don't really know. I just got a ton of valentine grams from her, so it seemed like a strong possibility."
"Poor Alison. To you, she is just the girl who sent you lots of valentine grams," I tsked.
"So sue me. I had been mistakenly too preoccupied focusing my attention on the wrong girl."
"Fine, fine. You're right, I have no right to criticize you. Forgive me."
"Yeah," Zach said, "Give me a little bit more time. I'll come back with a real guess."
I wasn't sure if he wanted more time to forgive me or to make his next guess. Perhaps he had meant both, but I returned the smile he shot my way before turning down the hall. "I'll be waiting for it."
As I watched Zach meld into the crowd towards the lunch room, I could feel the weight of a pair of eyes on me. Standing at his own locker a few feet down the hall was Reese, a deep frown on his face. It was the first time we've encountered each other since parting ways from Stella's the night before and my immediate thought was that yesterday had to be too good to be true. With how deeply we was currently frowning, ,Reese must have changed his mind about forgiving me. I did have another daisy sitting at the top of my locker that would say otherwise, but he could have still changed his mind since this morning.
That fear was quickly followed by the stomach dropping realization that this was it. I had now run into Reese, so I was now supposed to confess my feelings to him. Except, I couldn't trust myself to actually do it. In fact, perhaps it was probably safer to just sneak away and just delay the inevitable rejection.
But before I could make an escape, as if snapping out of a trance, Reese shook off the frown and strode over to me. By the time that he reached me, a smirk had established its place on his face. "So I'm your dear friend, huh?" he asked referring to my paraphrase of his criticism of Fairy Gossipmonger as he held out a copy of the Express already folded open to my piece.
Trust Reese to know exactly what to say because with him standing right there, his signature smirk in place, all my insecurities were temporarily forgotten. We were back to our typical Mackie and Reese repartee as I found myself giving an exasperated shake of my head. "Did I really write that? Must have been a typo. What I really meant was annoying friend."
"Are you sure? I think perhaps it should read 'wise beyond his years' friend." Reese gestured out each word with a swooping motion of his arm as if visualizing each word in front of him as he said it.
I rolled my eyes. "More like 'too smug for his own good' friend."
Reese gave a chuckle. "Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you actually agree with what I said. Almost as if you were even planning to take my advice." Upon mention of my alluded plans, Reese's face turned serious. Staring at him, I couldn't even begin to figure out what could possibly be going through his mind.
Did he know that I had meant that I wanted to confess to him? If so, how did he feel about that? I tried to tell myself that it didn't matter. It wouldn't change how I felt.
Actually, I don't want to just be your friend. The words teetered at the tip of my tongue as stared up at Reese. I really like you Reese. I want us to be more than just friends. Just being with you makes my day a thousand times better. All these thoughts bubbled inside of me wanting to get out, but the stopper still held strong.
Sensing my silent unease, Reese's gaze seemed to bearing down on me as he asked, "Did something happen?" When I looked at him in confusion, he just shook his head. "Never mind."
Upon his dismissal, I felt a surge of panic rip through me. "What else could have happened? Reese, is there something you know that I don't?" I asked in fear that I may have overlooked some other lurking problem.
"Nothing. Don't worry," he dismissed again.
"You're keeping something from me. Please tell me," I begged as I shook his shoulders in desperation.
Reese just placed his hands on my arms to stop my shaking. "There's nothing to tell," Reese insisted yet again, but his slowly growing grin made me think otherwise. "I've got to run a few errands – nothing that you should be concerned about," Reese added when he saw my frown deepen, "It's just student government stuff, so stop your worrying, OK?"
And even though Reese left me with a glowing smile on his face, I still couldn't shake off some sort of unease. He was keeping something from me, and I had no clue what it was.
I was still standing in the hallway in utter puzzlement when Anna came scurrying towards me, beaming brightly. "Please tell me my eyes were not just deceiving me! You and Reese! I knew you guys would finally realize how much you like each other."
"Uh, um," was all I could stammer out as Anna's smile started to fall. Whatever expression crossed my face was enough to clue Anna in that all was not what she had thought.
"I'm getting a little too ahead of myself, aren't I?"
"Well," I began, trying to figure out how to put into words the state of things between Reese and I when I couldn't say I was quite sure myself. It had just occurred to me that I let Reese go without actually telling him how I felt. And he still left with a smile, so clearly he hadn't been expecting any sort of confession from me.
"Please at least tell me that you two actually speaking to each other is a step in the right direction."
"It is," I squeaked.
"But not more than that."
I shook my head.
"But you're still hoping to be."
"Just what I was hoping to hear."
"Wait!" I yelped as Anna tugged me off towards the lunchroom.
"Katrina, Mackie here is in need of our help," Anna declared as she guided me to a table where Katrina already sat, likely waiting for her friend.
"Oh, uh, OK." Katrina looked taken aback at my arrival at the table. There sat yet another loose end that I still needed to tie up.
"Hi Katrina," I said timidly, very much aware I was not her favorite person right now. "Sorry for intruding. Also for the mess I made as, um, Fairy Gossipmonger. I can leave if you'd prefer."
"Mackie," Anna tried to protest, but it was unnecessary because Katrina turned to me with a tentative smile.
"No, it's fine. It'd be good to deal with someone else's problem for a change. Please sit," she instructed patting the seat beside her as Anna slipped in on the other side of me.
"So," Anna began her chin resting on her hands as she leaned in towards me with great interest. "Spill. What's really been going on with you and Reese?"
Over the course of the lunch period, I had explained to Anna and Katrina the events between Reese and I since the dance, leaving out any mention of Angela and figuring out who was really behind the Fairy Gossipmonger reveal. When I had finished telling them about my failed attempt at confessing my feelings to Reese just now, I had both girls looking at me with sympathetic pouts.
Anna then became thoughtful. "You were talking to Zach right before that weren't you?"
"Well, uh, yeah. But only to clarify all the misunderstandings that resulted from me being Fairy Gossipmonger," I quickly explained, not wanting to be misunderstood myself.
"Naturally," Anna dismissed as if my intentions for speaking with Zach were never a concern, but Katrina's pursed lips at the mention of Zach had indicated otherwise. "But what if Reese assumed that you and Zach were talking about something else? What if he had thought that you had been confessing your feelings to Zach?"
I looked at Anna, eyebrows wrinkled. "Why would he ever think that? I mean, he already knows that I turned Zach down when he asked me to the dance."
"Zach actually asked you?" Katrina asked in surprise.
I tapped my fingers together guiltily. "Yes, but I immediately said no. Because I really had wanted him to ask you to the dance," I insisted. Then added to Anna, "And Reese is fully aware of this."
"Right, but he fears that you only rejected Zach because you had already promised to bid on him during the date auction."
"He told you that?"
"Look, I wasn't just kidding when I said that you both need to realize how much you actually like each other. I don't get why you both have so many insecurities," Anna groaned.
"Sorry," I mumbled. If only I felt as confident as Anna did about where both Reese and I stood.
"It's about time the two of you actually followed your own pieces of advice. And while we're at it, Katrina, you should as well," Anna huffed as if tired of all of our melodrama.
"Who knew Anna could get so menacing when she gets fed up?" I muttered to Katrina who let out a tiny laugh.
"Serves us right for not taking our love lives into our own hands, huh?" she whispered back towards me continuing to pretend as if Anna could not hear our side conversation.
"Guess this means we should actually listen to her, then," I conceded, mostly just feeling glad that Katrina and I had suddenly found ourselves as comrades in our faulty attempts at love.
"Mackie," a voice hissed as I trekked through students and backpacks to my next class. I stopped to look around, trying hard to pinpoint the source of the voice. "Mackie," I heard again, before I felt a yank on my backpack, pulling me towards a large trashcan that I found Drew half-crouching behind.
"What are you doing?" I whispered down to him.
"Get down," he gestured to me with a large downward wave of his hand, so I complied even though it probably made us look more conspicuous. The trashcan was doing nothing to cover the two of us and our large backpacks.
"What is going on?" I tried again to figure out why I had been pulled into such a ridiculous situation.
Drew discretely pointed to where Mandy could be seen talking to Reese. Reese had his arms crossed, a hint of a frown on his lips while Mandy had her hands on her hips, her head shaking as she spoke. "What do you think they are talking about?"
"I don't know," I said. All I could ascertain was that either of them didn't seem to be quite as happy with what the other had to say.
"You don't think it is about me, do you?" Drew asked. I was about to turn to him with a snarky comment about how not everything was about him, when I realized there was real vulnerability in his puppy dog eyes. He probably did realize that whatever the conversation wasn't going well and did fear it had to be because of him.
"I don't know," I repeated. There weren't many things I could think of that Reese and Mandy would have a deep conversation about. Well, truthfully, there wasn't anything that fit that criteria besides Drew.
"Will you help find out what that was all about?" Drew requested.
"Why me? Can't you ask Reese yourself?" I asked, trying my best to not to butt into other people's business more than I needed to. Even if I was starting to get curious about what Reese and Mandy could be talking about.
"You're the only one I've talked to about this so far," he admitted.
"I'm trying really hard to put Fairy Gossipmonger behind me."
"Then don't think of this as a Fairy Gossipmonger thing. Think of this as helping out a friend. You said you'd still do that, right?" Who would have suspected Drew to be twisting my own words. Was there anyone who hadn't read my piece?
I sighed. "I'll see what I can find out."
"You are the best, Mackie!" Drew threw his arms around me, clearly non to concerned about staying discreet.
"Did something happen between you and Mandy?"
"Besides her still avoiding me like the plague? No. Why do you ask?"
"Just wanted to get my facts straight before I went snooping. Have you told her how you really felt?" I asked recalling his recent frustrations.
"I've spent all week trying to get her attention, but every time she sees me, she immediately turns the other way. I can't get in two words before she's out of sight."
I couldn't help but giggle at Drew's folly. I had personally witnessed this interaction a few times. Drew would light up at the appearance of Mandy, which only would result in Mandy draining of all color as she would run in the other direction.
"Can I suggest something, Drew?" I asked, standing up and backing away from the trashcan now that Reese and Mandy since parted ways.
Drew followed me to a stand. "What?"
"I don't think it would hurt to show Mandy some of your insecurities."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, you come on too strong when she's around, so she thinks that you're just teasing her. Instead, you should let her see some of this right here. How unsure you really get about her. It would actually get to realize that you really care."
Drew considered my words for a moment. "Easier said than done."
How right he was.
AN: GAHHH. I know. Where in the world have I been? I wonder that on a daily basis. That said, I made my self-imposed deadline (well, sort of…I'm just going pretend that it's still within the limits of my deadline somewhere in the world). But as a consequence, this chapter probably is a bit rougher than I'd like since I ended up not having the ability to devote today to writing as I had planned (blame my family for springing on me an impromptu day trip) and my brain currently is the consistency of mush. So again, thanks everyone for being patient and so encouraging (I know, I'm really sounding like a terribly broken record). As for when you'll see me again…fingers crossed it shall be soon.