Chapter 3: Failure to Communicate
Two weeks. Two weeks and not a word from Erik. I'd passed him in the hall a number of times and usually he didn't spare me a look. Of course I hadn't said anything to him either but it wasn't that I wasn't talking to him....he wasn't talking to me.
After two weeks of silence, I passed he and Timothy talking in the hall. He looked my way and was smiling. My heart fluttered with hope for a moment before I realized the smile wasn't for me. He was laughing at something Timothy had said. In fact, when his eye caught mine I noticed the smile falter. With a sigh I trudged into the science classroom - I was the first to arrive - and practically threw my backpack on the table.
"You should talk to him." Veronica voice said from beside me.
I nearly jumped out of my skin as I whirled around to face her. "Where did you come from?" I said looking around. I know when I walked in she wasn't here and I hadn't heard anyone walk in. And yet half the class had filtered in as well.
"I've been watching you brood for over a minute now." Veronica said. "And on that note, I repeat - you should talk to him. Break the ice..."
"I'm not not talking to him...he's not talking to me." I said for what felt like the hundredth time. Or maybe I'd just said it to myself a lot.
Veronica rolled her eyes at me. "Right. I'm just saying, talk to him. Ask him about his baby brother...what's his name?"
"Gavin." I said without having to think about it.
"Right. It'll break the ice and avoid the topic of the break up..." Veronica said pulling out her notebook and homework from the night before as the bell rang.
When I came out of the lunch line, Veronica and Timothy were already sitting with Erik. I stopped in my tracks and considered what to do. I was ready to go sit with them when I chickened out and dumped my full tray in the trash and walked out the side doors of the cafeteria. Todd caught up with me quickly. "Ginny!" he called as he came up beside me and slowed his pace.
"If you're gonna tell me to talk to him, you can just skip the lecture." I said looking straight ahead.
"Wasn't going to say anything." Todd said with a small smile. "But now that you mention it...you should."
"Hey, did you pick a car?" I asked changing the subject to something I knew he'd want to talk about. "Or did your dad change his mind?"
"What? Oh no he hasn't changed his mind." Todd said. "And no I haven't picked one."
"Why, again, is your dad buying you a car?" I asked already knowing the answer. We'd talked about it over the summer but it was a topic about Todd and not me.
"He thinks it will make up for the divorce or something." Todd said with a shrug. The fact that his parents were getting a divorce barely phased him. The fact is they'd been fighting for years so Todd wasn't really surprised.
"Is he attempting to buy Meghan's forgiveness as well?" I asked referring to Todd's little sister.
"He bought her a horse." Todd said with a smirk.
I stopped in my tracks and grabbed his arm. "A horse!?" I sputtered. "Has Meghan ever even ridden a horse?!"
Todd shrugged again. "No. He's paying for the stabling as well - anyway if you ever wanna go riding let me know. And don't think I didn't notice your artful subject change there Ginny." he said with a wink. "Erik....talk to him. You'll feel better when you do." he said as the bell rang from the school. We both hurried back inside.
The last class of the way was always the longest for me. I sat next to Erik awkwardly trying to avoid eye contact as Ms. Moore talked about Life Studies. "Life Studies" was supposed to talk about life after high school - real world lessons like jobs, budgeting, relationships, etc.
"Today I will tell you about our semester long project. See as this class is only one semester, this project will make up a significant portion or your class grade so I suggest you take it seriously." Ms. Moore said as soon as class started. "You will do this project with a partner and once your partner is assigned today, there will be no switching under any circumstances so don't bother asking." she said walking to the first girl in the room with a basket holding several slips of paper. Ms. Moore noted something from the slip and then walked to the next girl. She skipped all the boys. It became clear that this was the "assignment" of partners. Inside the basket were the names of all the boys in the class and the girls got to randomly draw.
I saw Veronica look Alexander Roberts' direction and smile, showing him her slip. Petronia turned to look at Todd after apparently drawing his name. They smiled at each other shyly. I was one of the last girls to draw a name from the basket. I pulled the slip out and mentally crossed my fingers for a good partner. 'Erik Langston' was typed neatly across my paper slip. My eyes went wide as I stared at it for several seconds. I heard a familiar tap tap tap and realized I was taking too long to show my slip to Ms. Moore. I showed the slip to her and glanced over at Erik trying to look neutral about it. Ms. Moore wrote down his name next to mine and returned to the front of the class.
"Okay, now that you all have your partners, I will tell you the project. Congratulations, you and your partner are married - at least as far as this assignment goes. Over the course of the semester, you will all be given scenarios which require you and your partner to communicate, work together, and attempt to resolve the problem. Each of you will be expected to turn in reports on the scenario and the resolution. Your responses and manner of handling things will dictate the other scenarios you receive through out the semester so I suggest you put effort into each report as a "couple."" she paused and passed back papers containing our first scenario - the same for everyone. "This project, as a whole, will count as a third of your grade in this class. So work together on it and take it seriously. Now open your books to page 54..." I glanced over at Erik once more as I leaned down to get my book. He caught me looking at him but I couldn't read his expression.
The first report for the project was due on Monday, so I lingered after class to try to talk to Erik. Many others seemed to have the same idea as all the newly "married" couples were chatting. Erik saw me waiting and looked at me expectantly. "So...um..." I opened feeling lame. I looked at my feet. "We should probably..." I held up the sheet of paper with the first assignment.
Veronica walked over dragging Alex behind her. I wondered, briefly, what Tessa (Alex's girlfriend) would think of this assignment. "We're going to the library to work on this, you guys coming?" she asked including Todd and Petronia in the question. I looked over at Erik who shrugged but nodded. We all left the classroom together. Todd and Petronia were chatting happily, Veronica was trying to chat with Alex who looked a little uncomfortable and a cloud of silence loomed over Erik and I.
The others broke off once we got to the library to do their own thing leaving Erik and I standing awkwardly together. We walked back to the relationship books and were browsing the titles and not speaking. "Look Erik..." I started to say when his cell phone started buzzing on vibrate. He reached for it and shrugged as form of apology for the interruption.
I sighed and took a book from the shelf to start reading over things. In truth, a trip to the library wasn't essential to understand the concept of the "end of the honeymoon phase" but it was neutral territory for all the new 'couples'. I sat at a table with Tessa, who had tagged along since Alex usually drove her home - or so she claimed. I think she just wanted to keep an eye on Alex and Veronica.
Erik talked as quietly as he could on his cell, he was getting nasty looks from the librarians. "Val - no!" he hissed into the phone. He looked over to the table and sighed. "Just no. I gotta go." he said clicking the phone shut.
He walked over and coughed to get my attention. "So..." he offered. He watched as I got to my feet looking awkward and looked momentarily distressed. I tried to process it as we walked back to the relationship books to browse. I bit my lip as I browsed the books and tried to figure out what to say to break the ice. "How's Gavin?" I asked suddenly and a little too loudly. I blushed as a librarian hushed me and glared at Erik.
"He's good." Erik said. "Light sleeper..." he added.
I nodded and then floundered on the topic of conversation.
Erik turned back to the stacks and browsed the books for a few minutes. "Look Gin..." he said turning back to look at me. "Why don't we get together later to work on this." he looked around the library. He looked like he was going to say something more but decided against it and started walking down the stacks.
"Erik wait!" I called earning glares from the librarians and curious looks from onlookers.
He didn't turn to look at me as he headed down into the internet cafe section of the library and outside. I followed him away from everyone. "Erik!" I called again from the front steps of the library.
"Look, you do your report, I'll do mine..." he said and turned to walk away again. "It'll be easier that way." he said, barely loud enough for me to hear.
He was half a block away before I blinked. "I don't think that's the point." I said softly. I pulled out the assignment sheet again and key words like "communication" and "compromise" jumped out at me. Veronica walked out and stood beside me then. "So..." she said looking around.
"There is a distinct possibility I'm going to fail Life Studies." I said turning back to the library to go gather my stuff.