Chapter 21: Cloudy Skies
I laid in bed staring at my phone after Erik and Todd left. The first time I reached for it, I put it down with a "hmph". He was being moody and was always quick to jump to being jealous but I'd been nothing but faithful!
The second time I picked it up I managed to dial the first three numbers before clicking end and putting it down with a sigh. But it could have looked bad to him I suppose - not that we'd done anything wrong but still, I could understand....sort of.
The third time I picked it up and punched in his whole number. It rang once before I clicked it off and tossed the phone across the room so I wouldn't be tempted. It landed with a small crash but didn't break. I'd see him at school I decided and pulled a pillow over my head.
I did see him at school but there was a deathly silence coming from his corner of first period and he managed to miss lunch all week. I was still alternating between sadness and annoyance so I didn't try to push him. After a week of stony silence and a week of me having to get my own locker open or lug around all my books, he approached me before school one day. He brushed my hand aside on my locker and popped it open for me and then just watched me as I swapped books. I eyed him curiously but waited for him to break the silence.
"I'm sorry." he said quietly. "For leaving like that, for not talking to you - I'm just sorry. I've had a lot on my mind."
"Okay." I said lamely. "Nothing happened you know." I said quickly. "I wouldn't..."
"Yeah. Look, I gotta go get ready for a final - can we talk later? Meet me in the gym after school?" he asked
"Sure." I said looking confused. He had seemed ready to talk and he was back to rushing off. I watched him walk away and slumped against my locker.
Todd watched him leaving as he walked up beside me. "Talking again?" he asked.
"Sort of....I guess." I said annoyed. "He looked like he was ready to talk and then rushed off."
The rest of my day was miserable. It was finals week so we had a special schedule to allow for finals in the morning and afternoon. Three hours in my computer final was miserable. I think I passed but I may scrap by with a C. Timothy tried to reassure me after but seeing as he was done an hour into the test and played computer games the rest of the time, I didn't put much stock in his assurances about MY performance.
By the end of my afternoon final, theater, I felt better. I was confident and hopeful that Erik and I would survive everything going on around us. He would realize nothing had happened or would happen between Todd and I; his mom would completely relent and agree to let him stay; the China trip would be over and everything would be great.
I told myself all these things as I crossed the school, as I cursed my locker and then headed down to the gym. I told myself this as I made a packing list in my mind. We left for China in just a couple days and I hadn't even started packing my suitcases. Veronica said she had six packed already earlier. I was calm and ready to talk with Erik when I walked into the gym.
And saw him in Mei-Ling's arms. It looked like more than just friendly hug. In a matter of seconds a dozen explanations flashed through my mind but I settled on the worst. After all his moodiness, all his jealousies...
I narrowed my eyes and cleared my throat to get their attention. They broke apart and didn't look the least bit guilty or concerned when they saw me. Odd.
Erik came towards me smiling, seemingly happy to see me but stopped as my looked over my face. He looked confused and then caught sight of Mei-Ling and understanding swept over him. "Gin...nothing...."
I didn't let him finish as I threw my hands up. "Gah!" I said loudly and turned on my heal to run out.
"Gin!" Erik called at the same time Mei-Ling called out as well. "Ginny!"
I didn't listen and kept going.
Somewhere in my head, buried under a lot of heat and rage, I knew there were a lot of reasons for what I just saw - none of which equaled Erik cheating but I ignored that slightly more rational thought and ran all the way home.
When I got home I stomped up to my room and pulled my suitcases out of the closet with several loud crashes, curses and bangs. I set them on the floor and collapsed next to them. Staring at them, tears stung my eyes and the anger dissipated replaced by sadness - overwhelming sadness.
I'm not sure how long I sat there staring at the empty suitcases. Eventually I heard a knock on my door. My face felt tight and my eyes were dry. My dad stepped into the room and stood at the doorway looking at me. He hadn't been home when I came in or during my fight with the suitcases. I'm not sure he knew anything was wrong but he seemed understanding. Maybe Todd had told him something. Maybe he assumed I was still sulking.
"Erik's here." he said quietly.
"I don't want to talk to him." I said looking up at him for the first time.
"Okay." he said sitting next to me. "But the two of you are about to be stuck on a very long flight to China together - you might want to figure it out before then."
I didn't say anything.
"It's normal you know." he said after a few moments of silence.
"What?" I asked as I picked at the carpet fibers.
"Fighting....with someone you love." he said. "Not that you should do it regularly but it's not the end."
I leaned my head against his shoulder and he put his arm around me and just held me.
"I was wrong about him." he said. "I think he's a good kid."
"I thought so too." I muttered. I stayed in my dad's arms for awhile before making an excuse about packing. He gave me a tight hug and motioned to the window as he left. I walked over to it and looked out. There he was, waiting, hoping....he saw me in the window but didn't motion for me. He just watched me as I turned away and closed the curtain.
Since we were on a finals schedule, I didn't have to see him until the day we all met outside the school for the airport shuttle. Todd and Mei-Ling seemed perfectly happy and Mei-Ling caught my eye. She looked apologetic but not guilty. Veronica pulled me aside before Erik had arrived. "I don't think anything happened" she said quietly. I'd given her the details of that afternoon and apparently she'd done some snooping.
I saw Erik's dad's car arrive out of the corner of my eye but returned my gaze to Veronica before I caught his eye. "Mei-Ling told Todd about it and she was really distressed about you." Veronica added quickly.
I just shrugged. I had a few days to calm down and start hearing the more rational thoughts and I knew it was entirely possible the hug was platonic. I was even ready to accept that if Erik came over to me and told me so. But the hug wasn't out only problem lately so I wasn't ready to talk to Erik. I sat with Veronica on the shuttle and tried to stay with her as much as I could to avoid the inevitable. It was easy to ignore his calls and emails at home, it was even easy to avoid him at school but there were only seven of us total including Ms. Moore. I was going to run out of ways to hide soon.
We checked in at the airport and filed through security one at a time. I ended up behind Erik in the line but the security officers kept us too busy with shoes and bag checks to talk and once we were on the other side we had a gate to get to.
While we waited for the plane, I took up a position of solitude by the window, watching the planes come and go over the ocean. Our airport was situated in such a way that it almost felt like you land on water when you came in.
I heard soft footsteps approach me and saw Mei-Ling's faint reflection in the glass. I didn't acknowledge her. Behind me I could hear Todd's voice. "She's really upset man." he was saying.
"But nothing happened, she was just sad because of going home....she's my friend..." Erik explained.
"I understand that." Todd said with emphasis on the I. "And I'm sure Ginny is to the point that she does too....but after everything else...." he trailed off without specifying what 'everything else' was.
Erik didn't reply to that. He knew what everything else was without Todd saying. The moods, the jealousy, the silent treatment....mostly the jealousy. I tuned them out and continued to stare at the ocean and the planes. I was so focused on it that I didn't hear Mei-Ling leave and I didn't hear him approach me until he said my name.
"Gin." he said softly. I turned slowly to look at him. "It was just a hug..." he said. "Nothing happened. Please believe me."
I nodded and looked back at the ocean. "I believe you." I said.
"You...You do?" he asked sounding surprised.
''Should I not?" I asked not looking at him. "You haven't given me a reason not to trust you."
"But the other day and the calls...." he trailed off.
"I was upset and...slightly irrational. But I believe you. If you say nothing happened then nothing happened." I said.
"Okay then." he said still sounding unconvinced. "We never got a chance to ...." he was cut off by a call for our flight.
"Flight 1408 to China now boarding." An emotionless voice rang over the loud speakers.
"Time to board." I said grabbing my carry on.
Erik grabbed his own and walked along side me but neither of us spoke. Ms. Moore stood at the gate making sure we all boarded and then followed us onto the plane.