“We can work on that some more tonight,” said a familiar voice. He sat down opposite me, blue eyes inscrutable.
I just froze. I don’t know why. Or worse yet, I did.
Truth was, I’d gotten off easy having him seated behind me in English. Faking it hadn’t been so hard. With him right there, however, staring at me, all of the complicated and difficult stormed through my head. A hurricane’s worth of oh shit, what the hell have I done with my best friend.
Time. That’s what I needed.
The time and space to put him firmly back in the just-friends box. No need to panic; everything would be fine. I had a plan. After all, it’s not like I had so many friends that I could afford to lose one to lust. Especially not one as important to me as John. Yet all I could think when I saw him was how I’d had my tongue in his mouth. He’d had his penis in my vagina. And despite the actual sex part kind of sucking, maybe with my hymen out of the way, next time would be better. Hell, maybe next time would be awesome. With someone who wasn’t John Cole, of course.
Yes, he and I would go back to being just friends. Just. Friends.
“Well?” he asked.
“Let’s talk later.”
I kept my face pleasantly blank as Hang’s gaze switched from John to me and back again with interest. Luckily for me, John didn’t notice. Also, Hang did subtle well, God bless the girl.
“We shooting hoops?” asked Anders. “Or you going to the library again like a loser?”
“All righty then.” After wiping the sweat from his brow, Anders trailed a damp finger across Hang’s cheek. “Later, babe.”
“Oh God, gross!” she cried, ducking out of reach. “Get away from me.”
“I know you want me,” he said, getting to his feet.
Nose crinkled, Hang stared at him in disgust. “However did you guess? Hooking up with a feral raving lunatic is absolutely my dream.”
A crease appeared between John’s brows. “Leave her alone, man. See you later, Edie.”
And the recipient for the Best Fake Smile award for the year was (insert drum roll here) . . . me. “’Bye.”
“God, now I’m going to have to decontaminate myself with bleach or something.” Hang scrubbed at her cheek with a Kleenex.
“What was that?” asked Sophia, moseying on up to our table. Carrie stood beside her, holding her hand. “Are there things going on with you and basketball boy?”
“Good question,” I said, despite my own need for privacy. “Seems like he’s into you.”
“No, no. Absolutely not,” said Hang. “I’m not the slightest bit interested in that too-tall idiot. And it’s a testament to our friendship that I’m still talking to either of you.”
When Sophia turned to me for answers, I gave a small shake of the head. Most definitely not going there anytime soon.
“You sure there’s nothing going on?” she persisted, taking a seat. “Are you really really sure?”
“I saw them talking outside of History earlier,” said Carrie. “Looked cozy.”
With great zest, Hang slapped her hand down on the table. “That’s it. You’re both dead to me and I’m not even going to mourn you.”
“Ooh,” Sophia chortled. “The bitch pack won’t like that. First Edie and John, now Hang and Anders. You should have seen their faces when the guys were just here. Ouch.”
The table full of girls in question sat on the opposite side of the cafeteria, laughing just a little too loud, flipping enough hair around to cause permanent neck damage. I didn’t care who the cool girls watched or what they thought, yet conditioning from my early years whispered that it mattered.
Hang cocked her head, eyes unimpressed. “Seriously, guys?”
“I’m not with John,” I said, finishing off my apple. “We’re just friends.”
“You two doth protest too much.” Carrie and Sophia shared a look.
“Don’t you two have something better to do than listen to dumbass gossip?” asked Hang. “Like, live your lives or go make out or something?”
“Actually.” Sophia leaned into the table, her chin in her hand. “I come bearing good news.”
The frown stayed on Hang’s face. “What?”
“My old manager is running a home decorating place at the mall and just so happens to be in need of a couple of people for Saturdays.” Sophia grinned. “I just might have told her about two mature, honest, and hardworking friends of mine who are looking for jobs.”
Hang clapped her hands. “You’re alive to me again! Oh my God, that’s great, Soph.”
“Really?” I asked, excitement building inside me.
Sophia nodded. “She wants you both to stop by one day this week after school.”
“That’s great.” I smiled. “Thank you.”
Hang and I beamed at each other. This was it: money, fame, and fortune would be ours. I could feel it.
John: U awake?
“If you had to make a list of everything you’d need to survive the apocalypse, how high would napkin rings rate for you?” asked Hang.
I put on my thinking face. “Hmm. Food, water, napkin rings.”
“You’d put them ahead of the napkin itself?”
“What use is a napkin without its decorative ring?” I asked.
Carefully, I attached the price sticker she’d handed me onto another shining example of the aforementioned item. “What about you?”
“Yeah,” said Hang. “Pretty much the same.”
We were gainfully employed. Or at least employed. Box and Jar had a wide and wonderful selection of everything you could possibly require to fulfill your domestic needs. It boggled the mind, half of the stuff. I mean, who the hell felt the need to invent three different varieties of dill pickle extractors? Pickles were great on a sandwich or burger. Absolutely awesome. But did getting the damn things out of the jar really warrant such a complex array of tools?
“I hear there was another party at Sabrina’s last night.” Hang watched me out of the corner of her eye. “Apparently it was lit, going off, super-duper, and all of these things.”