Chapter 5: Rebounding
"Sorry I couldn't be more help yesterday." I said to Mei-Ling while we stood by my locker before school. "It was a crazy first day for me. How was your day?" I asked smiling at her.
"It was....different." she said with a small smile.
"So, you're here from China yes?" I asked. "You speak very good English."
"My mother spent many years here in America, my father only some. They met here but return to China when they married." she explained. "Mother taught me English."
I smiled. "She did well. There's a back to school beach party this weekend, they have it every year - will you come?"
Mei-Ling nodded. "I would like that."
"Good!" I said happily. I saw her look over my shoulder and turned to see Todd walking behind me. I quickly turned back to her hoping he would keep going. She looked at me quizzically but said nothing.
I didn't have any such luck. Todd came around to stand near Mei-Ling and try to get my attention. I focused on Mei-Ling. "So every year, the schools get together and throw a beach day to start the year off with a bang I guess. We all spend the whole day at the beach and parents and teachers are there but try to stay out of sight" I said with a laugh. "I think you'll have fun." I added as Todd cleared his throat a bit to get my attention.
"Yes Todd?" I said finally looking at him.
"Um...about last night." Todd started. I cut him off by shaking my head.
"Todd, let's not. Thanks." I looked at Mei-Ling who was watching us with a confused smile. "Mei-Ling, I don't think you know Todd. Todd, this is Mei-Ling..."
"She's staying with Veronica's family." I said as they shook hands. Todd looked my way surprised and I just shrugged. Once again I noticed Mei-Ling looking past us and glanced back. Erik. I looked back at Mei-Ling and grinned but avoided looking at Todd.
"Be right back" I said softly and turned to greet Erik.
I gave him a light kiss good morning and out of the corner of my eye saw Todd looking slightly upset and Mei-Ling looking back and forth between us again. I'm not sure if she was completely confused or understood everything but it didn't really matter.
The warning bell sounded and I took Erik's hand and turned to Mei-Ling, waving her over. The three of us had first period with Ms. Moore so we could walk there together. I gave a weak wave to Todd as the three of us walked away.
Todd had science first period with Veronica and Timothy. He walked to his own class milling over the last 24 hours. By some fluke he'd been assigned Timothy as a lab partner. As the final bell rang for first period he leaned over. "Hey man, what did I miss this summer?"
Timothy looked over at him a little surprised. "What?' he asked for clarification.
"Gin and that guy Erik - what happened?" Todd asked.
"How should I know? I've been gone all summer as well." Timothy said looking forward and ignoring Todd.
Todd didn't try to engage him further and turned toward the teacher. He spied Veronica looking his way and he nodded his head in her direction but didn't smile or wave.
At lunch, Erik, Mei-Ling, Timothy and I found a couple tables together. We were talking about the beach party when Veronica and Todd sat with us. In spite of everything, I didn't find this at all odd. Todd, Veronica, Timothy and I had been eating lunch together for years - even after V and Todd broke up last year.
"You guys ready to party this weekend?" Todd asked. Veronica smiled her flirty smile at him but he didn't notice it. The rest of us mostly nodded our agreement.
The rest of the week was pretty mild. On Thursday, Veronica approached me and begged me to come to cheerleader tryouts with her - not to tryout but to watch or something.
"Why do you need me there?" I asked eying her.
"I just want you to come. We're friends...." she trailed off, not really her strongest argument. She rolled her eyes and looked at my forehead instead of my eyes. "Please." she choked out.
I laughed then and continued smirking about it most of the day but agreed to show up as moral support or whatever. As it turned out, Mei-Ling was trying out as well and wanted me to come out as well so it worked out okay.
That afternoon, just before tryouts, Veronica came to sit with Erik and I looking huffy.
"She's going down." she said bluntly.
"Um....who?" I asked looking around for the object of her displeasure.
"Mei-Ling." Veronica said with a growl in her voice.
I looked at her surprised. "Why?" I probed.
"Just look." Veronica said pointing toward the track where most of the girls trying out were assembled.
I bit my lip to keep from grinning. Todd was hitting on her - and she was responding. He was flexing his muscles and everything. Inside I was thrilled. Maybe he'd stop shooting those troubled eyes at me every time I held Erik's hand. I couldn't look at V, she'd see the amusement all over my face. "What's wrong with that?" I asked as neutral as possible.
She glared at me then. "What's wrong with it?! That's MY Todd...."
"V...you've broken up with him three times. I don't think he qualifies as yours. Besides, y'all have been broken up for months now." I said still watching Todd and Mei-Ling.
"But still..." she said said annoyed. "He's mine, and I'm tired of her being here."
"You mean, her taking everyone's attention from you?" I asked looking her in the eye. She didn't respond, instead she stood and walked away. She went down to the track and tried to make her own moves on Todd and for the first time, she was rejected...
"Oh that's bad." I said to no one in particular. "She'll be impossible to live with..."
Erik smirked beside me and put his arm around me. As the senior cheerleaders brought everyone together, he looked toward. "Tell me again why we're here?" he asked.
"I'm here as moral support for Mei-Ling...and V. You're here as mine." I said giving him a kiss and leaning into his shoulder. He shrugged in acknowledgment and looked back at the cheerleaders.
The senior cheerleaders led them through some awkward group cheers and encouraged them to be "Cheer-tastic" (which earned a smirk from Erik). Since none of them had practiced together it looked very disjointed but they had good moves - particular Mei-Ling.
Veronica was again outshined by Mei-Ling and it upset her. She looked less "Cheer-tastic" as the try out went on but on individual routines she nailed every move and every landing. For the sake of the school, I hoped the other cheerleaders and the coaches could look past the sour look on her face.
After the tryouts I wished them both luck before making a hasty retreat with Erik to the library. We had a history assignment to work on, and I just wanted to get away before Veronica attempted to kill Mei-Ling with a pom pom.
"So, tomorrow night?" Erik whispered across the table.
"Yes." I said with a smile. Then my smile faded. "But expect my dad to corner you...and be charming like I know you can be." I added. I didn't get a chance to elaborate before we were shushed by the librarian.