"What have you got now?" Dan asked Meg as they packed up their books. The bell had just rung and the classroom was emptying rapidly.
"Maths," Meg said as she got up, pushing the chair in. Dan winced. Blake, who was still present, smirked. Meg looked from one to the other with confusion.
"I'm missing something."
Dan shook his head as Blake preceded them out the door, his long legs giving him a head start. Meg raised her eyebrows.
"Yes, I am. Tell me what it is," she demanded. Dan sighed, his green eyes downcast.
"Um…" He avoided her gaze. "I don't know how much you know about things here – "
"I know your girlfriend's name is Ellen," Meg interjected, making him start. He stared at her in surprise.
"Oh…so you know about El." He grimaced. They stopped walking and stood to one side; in front of them, Blake stopped too, though a fair distance off because of his early lead. Meg frowned. She was beginning to not like Blake.
"I should clear this up for you," Dan said softly, as though he didn't want to be overheard. "El is not my girlfriend in the strictest sense. More like – well, a very old friend."
Meg rolled her eyes. "Right."
"No, really!" A note of desperation crept into Dan's voice. "I've known her since I was two years old."
"Uh huh. You know, whatever, I don't care." Meg turned her back on Dan and headed for the staircase in a huff. Dan ran after her and grabbed her arm, stopping her in her tracks. They were buffeted by students heading for class as he drew her close.
"Look, El is nothing to me. There's just a lot of other stuff there that I won't – can't – talk to you about. Please believe me." The look in his eyes was so fierce that Meg nodded slowly, dumbstruck. He seemed very sincere.
Blake was scowling when he caught up to them, obviously put out that they'd run off. He gave Dan a significant glance over Meg's head, which she pretended to ignore. Dan was still holding her arm, and it was making her feel strange. Light-headed, almost.
"We're late," Blake finally snapped, jogging down the stairs. Dan let go of Meg and smiled at her.
Meg didn't answer but followed him down the stairs. They ran the rest of the way to class, arriving out of breath. Or at least Meg was out of breath; Dan seemed like he could run forever. He winked at her as they slipped inside the classroom door before assuming a solemn face and walking over to sit by Ellen and Anna. Blake was already seated. Meg could feel his eyes following her as she walked past him to the only desk left empty.
As she sat down Meg caught sight of Ellen leaning into Dan and kissing the side of his neck. She averted her gaze, thoroughly confused. He said they aren't lovers, she reminded herself. Then suddenly the thought occurred to her that, no, he hadn't actually said that. He said he's not interested in her! What is going on? Meg wondered wildly. Shoving her satchel under the desk, she took a deep breath and opened her textbook. It's none of my business.
"How was class?" Sue gushed excitedly. They were sitting in one of the shaded courtyards, surrounded by noisy students eating lunch. Sue had managed to track Meg down about 30 seconds before and was now talking so fast Meg could barely get a word in edgeways.
"Um...okay," she admitted slowly, focusing intently on her sandwich. Sue gasped.
"Oh my god! He asked you out?"
"What? No!" Meg shook her head. "I know he's not interested in me that way, we just talked."
"Oh, come on, there has to be more to it than that!" Sue pouted, eyes intent on Meg's face. Meg's look of disappointment did not go unnoticed. "Oh. Well, I'm sure he likes you!"
The exclamation marks had made an unwelcome reappearance, but Meg attributed that to Sue's personality and decided she'd better get used to it fast. Taking advantage of the fact that Sue had just taken a bite of her salad roll and couldn't talk back for a moment, she asked casually, "So what's the deal with Anna and Blake? Ellen and Dan seem to ignore them a lot."
Sue chewed furiously and swallowed fast, almost choking in her haste. Meg offered Sue a drink from her water bottle but the redhead waved it away, tears standing in her eyes. She wiped them away with an embarrassed grin.
"Uh, sorry about that. Um...well, confidentially, Blake is so in love with Ellen. It's amazing! He's such a player and he falls for the girl that's already taken by his best friend." There was a gusty sigh. "It's so romantic..."
What's so romantic about it? Meg thought to herself, taking care not to let her feelings show on her face. Evil spawn falls for Barbie, what fun. She resumed eating her sandwich in silence, barely listening as Sue talked non-stop for the rest of the break.