Chapter 18: The Birthday Surprise
I glanced at my watch as I darted into Todd's first period class. I saw Veronica watching me - at least she was acknowledging my presence - as I leaned over to whisper furiously to him. "Meet me in the library for lunch!"
"What? Why?" Todd asked.
"Just do it" I said and looked at my watch again. The warning bell had already rung and I had less than a minute to get to class so I bolted. Thankfully my class was only a couple doors down so I skidded into Ms. Moore's room just seconds before the bell rang.
"Cutting it a little close there Ms. Bartlett." Ms. Moore said as I slid past her to my seat in the back of the class. I was smart enough to look repentant but said nothing.
Erik looked at me curiously but was unable to question me as Ms. Moore launched into a lecture on ancient Chinese culture. Mei-Ling was rapt with attention as the lecture continued and I tried to focus on Ms. Moore's words instead of Erik's eyes lingering over to me periodically. We'd walked to class almost every day since he moved here so I'm sure he was surprised when I was not at my locker waiting for him to open it for me. Fact is, I was going to be suffering without my text books for a couple periods since I'd foregone the morning meeting to catch up to Todd.
After class, Erik fell into step behind me. He put his arm around my waist. "Running a bit late this morning?" he asked with a smile.
"Hmm? Oh yes - over slept." I said using all my theater skills to keep a poker face.
"Ginny...." Erik said stopping me gently. He looked deep into my eyes and scanned my face. Whatever he was looking for, he seemed satisfied and shrugged. "Get your locker open?" he quirked.
"Err....no." I said sheepishly. "Have a minute?"
Erik laughed and followed me to my locker. He popped it open quickly and with practiced ease. It was well into the spring semester and I still couldn't get it to open nine times out of ten. Thankfully I had Erik to assist me. "I have to get to class, see you at lunch." he said turning to go.
"Oh I'm meeting Todd to work on a project during lunch." I said. "I'll see you after school."
Erik looked at me confused but finally nodded. "Okay. See you then." he said leaving.
I let out a deep breath and grabbed my books and binders. I decided I could live without a few so I wouldn't have to lug all my textbooks around all day. I closed the door and headed for second period.
Despite my lack of reasons, Todd showed up in the library at lunch as requested. "What's up Gin?" he asked as I pulled him to quiet corner nestled deep in the stacks.
"I need your help. I'm planning something for Erik's birthday and I need you to invite Veronica." I said.
"Why don't YOU invite her?" he asked
I gave him a look. "Because we're not talking to each other."
"Then why do you want to invite her?" Todd asked.
I sighed and grumbled. "Will you just invite her? And ask her to keep it quiet from Erik. Friday night, my place, 7 o'clock. You and Mei-Ling are invited too of course - I already told Mei-Ling. Please Todd?" I asked
Todd shrugged. "Sure. Can I go now?"
"No! I need your ideas....guy ideas." I said and then proceeded to pick his brain through most of the lunch period.
Meanwhile, in the cafeteria Erik and Mei-Ling were the only ones at the table. "Mei-Ling, do you know what is going on?"
"Hmm?" Mei-Ling asked looking up from her food. "With whom?"
"Todd and Ginny - Gin said they were working on a project during lunch today but they don't have any classes together." Erik said looking confused.
Mei-Ling shrugged but looked unconcerned. "I am not sure." she said somewhat honestly. She had theories as to the "project" but no one had told her about the lunch meeting so she wasn't certain. Erik tried to assume the nonchalant attitude she had but he kept remembering the first day of school.
At the end of school, Todd and I were talking by my locker and Erik saw us as he approached. He didn't say anything but changed course to intercept Veronica. "Uh-oh" I said watching over Todd's shoulder. "Have you told her yet?" I asked. Todd nodded and watched with me.
I tried to catch Veronica's eye without attracting Erik's attention to plead with her not to ruin the surprise but if she saw me she didn't acknowledge it. Erik walked over to us looking confused and suspicious still though so I was pretty sure she didn't tell him. I gave him a quick kiss as he popped open my locker for me. He was sending piercing looks Todd's way so as Mei-Ling approached I waved him off with her and gave my full attention to Erik.
"Is something going on with you two?" he asked as soon as Todd and Mei-Ling were gone.
I tried to look startled by his question but I'd been expecting it from the looks. "No!" I exclaimed in all honesty. "Erik - no." I said looking him right in the eyes.
Erik looked toward where Todd and Mei-Ling had disappeared and then back at me and I could see his face soften with belief. "Okay. Sorry - just....weird day." I smiled and nodded.
Thankfully I didn't need much more of Todd's assistance so we didn't give Erik and further reason to suspect us for the rest of the week. I invited Erik over to my house for dinner on Friday but didn't tell him anything else. "Happy Birthday" I said as I opened the door to greet him. I have him a lingering kiss and took his hand.
He was watching me when we walked into the kitchen and I was watching the crowd of people so he was startled when they all yelled surprise. He wanted to be annoyed with me but when he saw it was a small crowd, he smiled.
Todd led them in a round of "Happy Birthday" as I snuggled against him. "It's not a party - just a friendly dinner...see, no balloons." I said with a laugh.
He laughed as well - although I suspect it was at our friends' bad singing. Only Timothy and Veronica had much talent of the group.
"Thanks." he said with a smile as they finished the song. He look genuinely happy - which considering his many dire warnings for me NOT to throw him a party, I was happy to see.
"Okay everyone, sit down so I can get dinner." I said ushering him further into the dining room.
There was a lot of scuffling of chairs as people sat at the table and I was half way to the stove when the door bell rang. Everyone invited had arrived except Erik's dad and I hadn't really had any hope of him showing up. "I'll get it." I said walking quickly to the door.
When I opened it, it wasn't Hank Langston standing it front of me. It was a woman. "Um hi." I said looking confused. "Can I help you?" I asked.
I must have taken a moment too long because I heard footsteps from the dining area and then Erik's voice. "Gin? Who is it?" he asked rounding the corner. "Mom!" he said startled, taking the woman in. His eyes rested on the noticeable bump of a belly. "Mom!" he said again with my shock in his voice. "You're...."
"Pregnant." she finished for him when the word failed to come out of his mouth.
"Right....what are you doing here?" he asked looking at me. I shook my head, I didn't invite her - I didn't even know her.
"You think I'd miss my son's birthday? Your father told me you'd be here." she said.
"You talked to dad?" Erik asked still more surprised.
"Yes dear, your father and I do talk on occasion." she said in the mom tone.
"Why don't you come in?" I interjected. "Hi I'm Ginny." I said offering my hand as she stepped inside the house.
"Oh! You're Erik's girlfriend! He talked about you quite a but when he came home over the holidays." she said shaking my hand. "I'm Lydia - Erik's mother as I assume you surmised." she said giving Erik a look.
"Gin - Mom; Mom - Gin." Erik said dryly. Lydia Langston did not approve but said nothing. "Mom, can we talk outside?" Erik asked.
The door was barely closed before I saw Todd, Mei-Ling and Veronica peeping out the windows.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Erik asked, "I saw you three months ago and have talked to you several times since - clearly -" he waved to her belly "You've known this for awhile."
"Well I planned to tell you when you moved back HOME." his mom replied. "Which you should have done three months ago."
"THIS is my home too Mom, I have a life and friends here. I like it here." Erik said sounding exacerbated.
"But can you see why I want you to come home Erik, don't you want to be in your little brother's life?" she asked looking hurt. "Do you understand now why I want you to come home?"
"It's not that I don't want to be in your life....wait it's a boy?" Erik asked with a smile.
"Yes!" Lydia said latching onto his evident excitement. "And I want him to know his big brother."
"He will, my being here doesn't make that impossible." Erik said. "Meet them, stay and meet them. Meet Gin and her dad - maybe you'll understand."
"Of course I'll stay for your birthday." she said with a smile. Erik was about to smile back when a scruff, disgruntled looking man walked up the path.
"Dad." Erik said his face falling. His mom looked confused until she saw his eyes were focused past her, she turned to see her ex standing there.
Inside I grimaced, having fallen into the trap of spying through the window. "Okay, him I invited." I said to no one in particular.
Erik's parents fell into familiar habits quickly, they immediately started fighting. "That's my cue to leave." Erik mutter walking into the house. We all scurried from the windows as he came in.
I turned on the stereo to try to drown out the arguing from outside. Erik was looking sad, annoyed and angry so I dragged him into the living room and started dancing around him. After Todd and Mei-Ling joined in and then Veronica and Timothy he stopped sulking and danced as well.
Veronica and Timothy - though clearly not a couple anymore (if they ever really were) - seemed to have moved back to sort of friends. After Erik seemed a bit happier I excused myself and cut in on Timothy and Veronica. Timothy moved aside and I took his place. V and I danced together in silence for several minutes.
"Thank you." I said finally. "For not telling Erik..." I added.
Veronica nodded. "We don't have do the hugging thing do we?" she asked finally with a faint smile.
"No. No hugging." I said with a smile. "We're too bitchy for that..."
"You have no bitch in you." Veronica said with a laugh. I laughed as well.