A week passed and Veronica had remained silent about Todd and Mei-Ling. Sure every time I saw her, she was watching them with that conspiring look but she didn't do anything. I waited with baited breath when they posted the cheerleader results; V was an alternate, Mei-Ling made the squad - and still nothing.
"Are you watching Veronica again?" Erik asked me one day in the hall. He had an amused grin on his face. He didn't understand my anxiety but didn't try to stop me.
"Hmm?" I asked glancing at him. As his words registered I laughed. "Yeah, she's not one to give in and she seems to have a decided Mei-Ling is the enemy this time." I said.
"So what's new on the front?" he asked looking over at Veronica with me.
"Not much. She's gossiping like always. I'm not sure who it's about though." I said trying to hear over the crowd of students.
Erik shook his head. "You'll never hear her over this noise. I'm sure whatever it is will be all over school by lunch though." he said turning to my locker which he opened with ease.
"How do you do that? I can never get the thing open." I asked turning away from Veronica and toward my locker.
"Well if I told you, you wouldn't need me." he said with a wink. He gave me a light kiss. "Gotta go see Mr. Watts before class. See ya later." he said and left. I grabbed my books and looked back to find that V had another gossip victim in her grasps. She was closer this time and just as Mei-Ling walked up, I her V say her name.
Erik was right, Veronica's rumors - all baseless and about Mei-Ling - were all over school by lunch and it got worse as the day wore on. People would approach Mei-Ling and snicker before making a joke at her expense.
I tried to pull Veronica aside most of the day but she avoided me. Finally, at the end of the day, I got her alone near our lockers.
"What are you playing at V!?" I asked loudly. "Do you know what you've done to her?"
Veronica looked smug, obviously proud of herself but made no reply or attempt to justify her actions.
"Right, you don't care." I said disgusted. "Do you remember 7th grade V?" I asked giving her a look. I saw her smugness slip for a second or two and walked away.
Veronica recovered herself quickly and put the thoughts out of her head when she saw Mei-Ling walking across the hallway. She jogged over. "Hey Mei-Ling!"
Mei-Ling looked at her warily but said nothing.
"Todd just wanted me to tell you he has to stay after school for a couple hours - some meeting with Coach Reed. So he can't meet you until 6 at the diner." Veronica said trying to look sincere. Mei-Ling barely inclined her head in acknowledgment of Veronica's words. Veronica smiled and waved goodbye before jogging down the hall toward her science classroom where she knew Todd was meeting their teacher to talk about an assignment. No one else was in the room except Todd when she got there. She approached him and smiled. "I just saw Mei-Ling, she said she has a lot of studying to do so she wanted to meet up with your earlier than y'all planned." she said sweetly and then looked around. "Hey Mr. Green?"
Todd shrugged. Veronica shrugged as well. "Well she said she'd be at the diner at 4 instead of 5, okay?" she said. Todd just nodded and Veronica left the room with a bounce in her step. She waited out of sight until she saw Todd leave the school and then headed to the diner after him. He was barely seated at the table when she walked in looking confident.
"Hey Todd! Mind if I sit for a few - I'm getting my order To-Go!" she said. She sat before he could reply.
"Well I..." he trailed off as she took the seat anyway. He suspected the rumors had originated from Veronica but wasn't quite sure.
"So Todd..." Veronica said leaning toward him.
Todd leaned away from her slightly. As much as her presence irritated him right now, he didn't want to cause a scene.
She placed a hand on his leg. "Homecoming, what time are you picking me up?" she said smiling at him.
"Um wha....huh?" he sputtered looking from her flirty smile to the hand on his leg. "We're not going to Homecoming together."
"We talked about it in the Spring remember Todd?" Veronica asked pretending to be surprised at his reaction.
"Yeah I remember and a lot has happened since then - you broke up with me for one and I'm seeing Mei-Ling for another!" Todd said jumping to his feet.
Veronica stood up as well and tried to lean in close to him but he backed away. "No V!" he said. "I'm not going to Homecoming with you, I'm not dating you and I'm not even sure I like you right now!"
"But Todd..." Veronica said floundering. She had expected him to be resistant but not like this.
"I know it was you." Todd said glaring at her. "I know it was you who spread those awful rumors about Mei-Ling. Every one of them was a lie but you knew what would happen!" Todd shouted at her. "it was cruel - even for you."
"Todd I didn't! I wouldn't!" Veronica lied, glancing around for some sort of back up but the light crowd was deliberately ignoring them.
"You did. You talk and talk because then people have to pay attention to you. This time you were just mean." Todd said as Mei-Ling walked in - wisely having ignored Veronica's "message" from Todd.
Veronica looked over and saw Mei-Ling and narrowed her eyes. She looked at Todd and then squaring her shoulders she turned and walked out, deliberately bumping into Mei-Ling as she left the diner. Erik and I were quietly eating in the back booth as it all went down and as V left, I stood. "Be right back." I said to Erik and followed her. I smiled as Todd and Mei-Ling hugged as I was leaving.
"V! Wait!" I called from the stairs. She hesitated and then kept going. I jogged to catch up with her. "Veronica!"
She whirled around one me. "What?! Come to tell me how cruel I am too?" she asked glaring at me.
"No, I came to ask if you were okay?" I said quietly.
"What do you care?" Veronica asked coolly
"You called me your friend, granted you wanted something at the time but still - you were right. I am your friend, even if you're being mean." I said. "Come over to my house tonight - we can have a sleep over, like old times."
Veronica rolled her eyes at me. "No." she said simply.
"Yes." I said grabbing her purse and digging out her phone. I dialed her mom's cell number by heart and handed it to her. "Tell her you're spending the night at my house." I said with a smile.
Veronica eyed me but finally seemed to accept it and told her mom what was up. When she hung up she looked at me. "Why am I staying at your house again?" she asked.
"Because you need it." I said putting my arm around her shoulder. "Come on, you can eat with Erik and I and then we'll go home." I said guiding her back into the diner. She resisted but followed along anyway.
We stopped by Veronica's house on the way to mine so she could grab some stuff. The first order of sleepover business was a night time swim.
"Truth or Dare V?" I asked, already knowing she'd say Truth - we both always did.
"Truth." she said treading water.
"Are you more upset that you didn't make the squad or that Mei-Ling did?" I asked looking at her.
She didn't reply. She swam away from me to the stairs and climbed out. I waited a moment and then followed her. "Well?" I asked as we both sat back on the lounge chairs. "I know you never particularly cared for gymnastics or dance when we were in it, so I suspect you only tried out either to be popular or show Mei-Ling up...."
She still didn't reply for awhile. I leaned back and stared up at the stars, leaving her to her thoughts. "You're right" she finally said breaking the silence. "I was trying to beat her. I don't care about cheerleading but the fact that SHE made it...." she trailed off.
"And Todd?" I asked looking at her. "You don't want Todd for Todd do you? You want him because she does." She didn't reply but I detected a tiny nod of her head.
"Gah! She's just....she's everywhere Ginny!" Veronica said jumping to her feet. I stood up as well and took her hand.
"Come on let's go dry off and change." I said leading her to my room. She took a shower first. When I finished my own shower and came out, she was laying on my bed. I laid down next to her.
"What's your deal with her V?" I asked.
"She's taking over my life Ginny! She took my house, my family, my school, Todd....you." she said looking at me.
"What?" I asked sitting up on the bed. "You asked me to be nice to her, to show her around because you didn't want to. She's nice, she's my friend but that doesn't mean you aren't."
"I know all that Ginny." Veronica said sitting up as well. "I just..." she trailed off and then got up. "I'm hungry, let's get a snack." she said breaking off the topic before it was done and leaving the room. I hurried to catch up with her and joined her in the kitchen.
"Sit, I'll get us something." I said pointing to the barstools. Veronica sat and watched me as I opened the fridge. "It's just what V?" I asked trying to open up the conversation again.
Veronica just watched me make us some sandwiches and didn't reply until I set a sandwich and chips in front of her. She stared at her food without touching it and I thought I heard a sniffle. I looked over and she was wiping her face. "When I called my mom earlier, she didn't even know I wasn't in the house. I could have told her I was going to Paris for the weekend and she wouldn't have cared - she wouldn't have even noticed I was gone probably." she said playing with the chips on her plate. "But she asked me where Mei-Ling was. She notices when she's gone but not me." she said looking over at me. "Not me Ginny, I'm not important enough to be noticed in my own house but she is."