Chapter 8: K-I-S-S-I-N-G
My phone came to life and beeped telling me I had a text. I fumbled around for my cell on the night stand and heard it clatter to the floor. "Whoever it is may just die." I muttered in the darkness. I could see the sky was barely pink with morning dawn. "Yeah...they will..." I said as I felt around on the floor for the phone. Finally the tips of my fingers brushed against it and I snatched it up.
"Meet me @ the Diner in 20, please."
I raised my eyebrows and stared at the words and then looked at the clock. It was 5:40 in the morning. Why was Erik at the Diner at 5:40 in the morning - why was he even awake at 5:40 in the morning. No one should be awake at 5:40 in the morning. I opened up a reply box and considered telling him he was nuts but simply typed in "K" and rolled over to try and catch five more minutes.
A few minutes past 6AM I stumbled into the diner. It was completely empty except for Mel, the owner who was at the stove working on breakfast and Erik who was behind the counter holding a tray full of coffee mugs.
"Whatever is in that mug better contain caffeine." I said taking a seat at the counter.
Erik laughed and handed me a mug which was hot, fresh and caffeinated. I took a sip and sighed happily. "Okay one, when did you start working here? And two, why am I up at six in the blasted morning?"
"About a month ago and because I wanted to talk about our fake marriage and this was the only chance we'd have before class." he said with a grin.
"Well point of advice - this fake wife doesn't like getting out of bed that early. Could lead to a fake domestic dispute." I said taking another long drink of coffee. We were at the mid point of the project and everyone had to give a presentation on their "status" in class so I let the early wake up call slide for now.
The Diner got busy and Erik and I could only talk as he got a few moments but we talked about the presentation on the way to school after he finished his early morning shift. "Are you going to tell me what's up with you Todd?" he asked as we walked into the school together.
"No." I said with a shrug and a wave.
"Friends tell!" Erik called after me and I chuckled as I walked to my locker. Yeah I doubt he wanted to hear this little bit of friendly news. I was halfway to my locker when I was stopped in my tracks. Todd apparently had already moved on to a new flavor as he and Jayne Madison were making out in the hall.
I sighed and went around them to my locker, grabbed my books and hurried to science class. Veronica had switched seats with Timothy's lab partner and she and Timothy were also lip locked. I sat next to my new partner and smiled weakly. I tried to shoot Veronica a dirty look later for abandoning me but she just looked smug. Timothy had the grace to shrug sheepishly - it would have been more effective if his lips didn't have traces of Veronica's lipstick.
I nearly fell asleep in my morning classes and was cursing Erik, Veronica and Todd under my breath as I made my way to the cafeteria. I grabbed a bowl of soup and a soda and made my way over to our table....but everything was wrong. Todd wasn't there. I sat down and glance around and saw him sitting at another table with Jayne and the other cheerleaders.
Erik followed my line of sight and reach out to me. When his fingers brushed across my hand I nearly jumped out of my seat. I gave him a weak smile and forced myself to look away from Todd - we always sat together.
"Are you okay?" Erik asked quietly.
I shrugged and played with my soup. I wasn't very hungry anymore. After pretending to eat for about 20 minutes, I dumped my bowl and excused myself from the cafeteria. Erik started to follow me but I waved him off and disappeared into the girls' bathroom. I knew if Todd and I just talked about it, the awkwardness would dissolve...logically I knew that.
My fourth period class was researching our papers in the library when I noticed a couple making out in the stacks. I turned away at first, not wanting to disturb, when I recognized them. "Gah!" I said a little too loudly.
Veronica and Timothy came up for air at my little out burst and the librarian and my teacher came to investigate. Once again the lipstick gave Timothy away and the librarian gave them both detention for the afternoon. Veronica glared at me, apparently blaming me for the detention - or maybe she was just blaming me for interrupting. I shook my head and went back to my research. I researched the dirt smudges on the library window for forty-two minutes as I was completely unable to focus on King Lear.
Erik managed to carry me through the presentation even though Veronica was shooting me evil glares and Todd was deliberately avoiding eye contact with me. We even sound like a coordinated, communicative fake married couple and got praise from Ms. Moore for working through our early issues. After the presentations, she assigned the next portion of the project and I saw Veronica making arrangements with Alex after class. As I passed she raised her voice so I could hear, "I can't meet you today after school because SOMEONE got me detention!" she looked my way and glared again. I just shook my head and walked away.
Later that night Erik and I met at the park to talk about the newest assignment. It wasn't due for a week but I desperately needed to get away from my house...and Todd's house. "So apparently all my friends hate me." I said as an opener after we'd spread out or homework on the grass.
"I'm your friend and I don't hate you." Erik said.
"No you're my fake husband." I said with a half-smile.
"But your friend too." He said. "Why do your friends hate you? I find that hard to imagine."
"Timothy and Veronica were making out in the library stacks and I - completely unintentionally - interrupted and managed to get them detention." I said.
"They were making out in the stacks?" Erik asked with surprise.
I just nodded and started doodling in my notebook absently. "And now Veronica has been shooting me evil looks all day."
"Well it doesn't sound like Timothy blames you or hates you." Erik pointed out.
I shrugged. "Probably not but he's so busy making out with Veronica I couldn't get a moment to talk to him anyway."
"And Todd...." Erik prompted. "Why does Todd hate you?"
"Because I kissed him." I said before really thinking about my words or who I was talking to. It took a moment for the realization to hit and I stopped doodling and looked up at Erik.
The playful smile that had been on his face faded as he looked at me, grasping the words that had slipped out. It took him a few moments to recover, as if he'd been slapped. "Having kissed you, I can't imagine that would make anyone hate you." he said in an effort to cover whatever he was really feeling but his voice was flat as he said it, betraying him.
"I was....Um...it's a long story." I said and looked back at my paper. A single line had trailed down from my doodle to the edge of the paper from when I'd made my slip.
"You should talk to him." Erik said standing up and gathering up his stuff. "Communication." he said tapping the open book and giving me a little smile as he closed it.
I stood up and gathered my own things since it was clear our study session was being terminated. "Erik...." I said to his back as he'd started to walk.
"Hmm?" he said turning back to face me.
"It was the night you told me about Val....I was hurting. I used Todd....I used him. So he has every right to be upset with me..." I said in a rush. Communication was key after all. I just hoped it wasn't key to unraveling the fragile friendship Erik and I had been creating.