Leaning back against the wall, he got comfortable, legs stretched out, crossed at the ankles. John Cole on my bed acting right at home. Happiness. Still, I tried not to let my body or brain get overexcited. We were just friends, after all. And the more I kept reminding myself, the sooner it would hopefully sink in. Crushing on friends wasn’t smart. God knows, his friendship was a big part of what kept me sane-ish these days.
“Building the customer base, getting and keeping their loyalty, dealing with all of the different suppliers, keeping track of everything,” he said. “I’m not just a stoner, Edie. Hell, I didn’t even smoke that much. Well . . .”
“Most of the time. Anyway, I was in it for the money, and that meant taking it seriously.”
“And your brother’s still dealing?”
“Oh, yeah. He’s his own best damn customer.” Pain filled his eyes, there and then gone in an instant. Shoved aside.
“I’m sorry. I’m glad you got out, though.”
“Me too.” He patted the mattress. “Stop delaying. Come on, you explain this Poe guy to me and I’ll help you with your math issues.”
“And hey, Edie?”
I got busy rifling through the contents of my schoolbag. “Hmm?”
“You’re cute when you’re pissed off.”
My head snapped around like the chick from The Exorcist, but he was reading his textbook, not even looking at me. Weird. “Thanks. But I prefer the word fierce.”
Me: I’m bored. Text with me.
John: About what?
Me: Anything. What’s your favorite color?
John: I don’t know. Green. I’m guessing yours is black
Me: Truth. Tho it’s not really a color, it’s a shade or a tone or some shit. Favorite food?
John: Pizza. You?
John: Good call. Music?
Me: Lots. Too many to have a favorite.
John: Me too. Movie?
Me: Deadpool. A perfect balance of funny, hotness, and wrong.
John: It was good. TV show?
Me: Used to be Stranger Things but now I’m not so sure. You?
John: Samurai Jack. Why are you not sure?
Me: I don’t know. Maybe I need more happy and light in my life.
John: Fair enough
Me: I loved Orphan Black too.
John: Excellent show
Me: You didn’t say your favorite movie…
John: I dunno. Star Wars
Me: A worthy classic. Tell me something I don’t know about you.
John: Like what?
Me: Anything you like.
John: Sometimes I eat pop tarts for breakfast
Me: What?! No… truly you’ve exposed your innermost self to me. I never would have picked you as a pop tart guy. My entire mental image of you is messed up now. It’s like the whole world has been turned upside down.
John: Great. Your turn
Me: I like texting you.
Me: And occasionally I eat pop tarts too.
Because happiness is overrated, things fell apart again between John and me the next week.
It came in the form of John standing by his locker covered in Erika’s hands. The girl couldn’t seem to decide what part of him to publicly grope first. His chest, his lean hips, the hard lines of his arms. So classy, the way she tried to dry-hump his leg. I sincerely hoped he remembered to wash himself in disinfectant when she finished.
Why that bitch? Any other female and I’d have dealt. But no, poor delicate feelings and wounded heart, broken loyalty, etcetera. Without a doubt, it was my fault for getting all dreamy and delusional about the boy. Even though he’s just my platonic friend, to let that ho fondle him in the hallway after everything she’d said . . . how could he?
Before either of them saw me, I about-turned and made for the nearest exit. The brave thing to do was to immediately run away. God knows what would happen if I stayed. A limb might fall off or something. I’d made it through a solid three-quarters of Friday without hiding from reality by locking myself in a bathroom stall for a half-hour or more; to expect anything else of me this week would be insane.
“Hey,” said Hang. “You’re going the wrong way.”
“No. Nope.” I shook my head. “Unless, of course, you want to watch that Erika chick attempting to mount John next to his locker.”
“What?” Hang wrinkled her nose. “Ew.”
“I know,” I said. “And while I realize the school’s sex education policy could be seen as inadequate, actual real-life demonstrations are not what I’m after.”
“So I’m ditching school for the first time. It’s my next new experience, I just decided.” The smile I gave her was in all likelihood slightly unhinged. “Take notes for me, pretty please?”
She shook her head. “Screw that, I’m going with you. Let’s get out of here.”
First we stopped at Auburn Coffee Company, because caffeine. Next, decisions were made. An empty Friday night loomed ahead. This would not do.
I won’t lie: some fear and guilt lived inside of me over skipping school. But I valiantly ignored those trash-talking fools. So what if I got detention again or they told Mom? Actually, I’d prefer if Mom never found out; her stress levels over me were high enough. It was, however, one measly class in my entire school career as opposed to the end of the world.
“I was abducted by aliens,” said Hang, sitting cross-legged on her bed. The aforementioned plans included a sleepover at her place. Since her parents had a very well-stocked bar and they’d gone out for dinner with friends, we’d finished our coffees and started on some beer. “They stole me straight out of a school hallway. There was nothing I could do but allow them to carry out their sick and perverted tests on me.”
“God, you poor thing.” I sipped at my drink.
“Did I mention that all of the aliens looked like male models?”
“All those probes. You’re so brave.”
“I try.” She sniffed. “What about you? Why did you miss your last class?”
“Oh, I slipped and sprained my left breast,” I reported with a straight face. “Had to go home and rest it immediately.”
“Absolutely. That sounds excruciating.”