"What are you saying Gin?" Todd asked chuckling.
I sighed, trying to find the right words, "It's just....she's a freshman - do you really think she should be dating..." I trailed off as Todd's chuckle got louder. "What?!"
"They AREN'T dating," he said once he stopped laughing. "Besides, you dated him..." he stopped as a certain understanding flashed across his face. "Ohh, I see now!"
"What?" I asked frustrated with his joking attitude.
"Nothing." Todd said shaking his head. I could tell he was trying to contain another laugh.
"What?!" I practically shouted, gaining a few looks from other lingering students.
"You're jealous." Todd said bluntly, opening my locker for me.
"I am not!" I sputtered. "Really!" I argued when Todd looked unconvinced. "Erik can date....or flirt...with anyone he wants! Just as Meghan's brother I thought you might..."
"Stop her from having a life? Not my job." Todd said still laughing at me. "Rationalize it all you want but YOU are jealous that Erik is..." I saw Erik approaching and shook my head at Todd to cut him off.
"Did I hear my name?" Erik asked lightly. Todd bit his lip to stop from laughing again. I think I would have to hit him later.
"Hi Erik." I said and quickly turned my attention to my locker.
"What's with her?" Erik asked Todd; Todd, for his part couldn't contain his laughter but just shrugged in response to Erik's inquiry. "What's with you?" Erik asked looking confused.
"Ginny here was just asking about Meghan is all." Todd said finally. He grinned and look directly at Erik. "She couldn't stop talking about you on the way to school this morning."
Erik looked from Todd to me as I closed my locker. "Really?"
"Oh yes, seems you have a new fan." I said with a half-hearted smile.
"Jealous?" Erik teased.
"Not hardly." I replied as firmly as I could muster.
"Oh yes she is...." Todd said quietly, but not quietly enough. I turned back to my locker to hide the blush creeping up my cheeks as Todd and Erik laughed.
I was about to calculate an escape attempt when Timothy approached with a handful of colored fliers. "Good morning everyone."
"What's with the fliers?" I asked pointing toward them; ignoring Erik and Todd.
Timothy handed me one and I skimmed it as he spoke. "I'm running for Junior class vice president on the student council."
"Cool." I said. "Got my vote....wait, when do we vote?" I said thinking back - had I ever actively paid attention to student council elections?
"In a couple weeks, I'll be sure to let you know." Timothy said with a small chuckle.
"Is this pick on Ginny day or what?" I said but I couldn't help but laugh at myself this time. The bell rang, rescuing me from being the butt of any more jokes thankfully.
Todd caught up to me later as I walked into our English class. "Hey Ginny - I'm sorry about earlier. Shouldn't have been ragging you like that."
I waved it off. "It's okay, maybe I am...a itty bitty tiny bit jealous...but if you tell him that..."
Todd made the gesture to zip his lips and threw away the key. "My lips are sealed." We took our seats; while waiting for class to start, Veronica walked in and looked around. Her eyes locked on me and she made a bee-line in our direction. "What is she doing here?" Todd whispered.
"Hey Gin!" Veronica said with a huge, phony smile on her face.
"Veronica." I returned her greeting with all necessary wariness and suspicion. "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to tell you...." she looked from me to Todd for a second before continuing. "Well both of you, that I'm running in the Student Council elections. For class vice prez...I hope I can count on your votes!"
"Why?" Todd blurted out before I could figure out how to respond. I snickered and looked away from Veronica quickly.
"Why what Todd?" Veronica asked icily, her phony smile and attitude slipping.
"Why would we vote for you?" Todd asked.
Veronica glared at him for a long moment before returning her attention to me. "So, Gin - can I count on you?"
"Doubtful V, I've never been able to count on you." I said and her phony smile dropped completely. Thankfully Mrs. Crammer came in and ushered her out of the classroom before she could reply.
Timothy approached our lunch table with an unfamiliar girl following behind him. "This is Nai'a." he said. "She just moved here and I'm showing her around today. Nai'a, this is Genevieve..."
"You can call me Ginny." I interrupted, smiling at the girl.
"And Erik, Todd and Meghan - she's Todd's sister." Timothy continued.
"Hi." Nai'a said waving. She joined us at the table and we peppered her with questions to get to know her. She wasn't shy at all and asked us about as many questions.
Toward the end of the lunch period, Todd interrupted the question and answer session; "Has V approached any one else about the elections?" he went on to explain the encounter in our English class but everyone else shook their heads. Timothy looked thoughtful; likely considering his new competition. "What could be her motive for even running?" Todd wondered aloud.
"Has she even been involved in Student Council before?" Erik asked and Timothy shook his head in muted reply. I looked over toward Veronica's table and saw her snickering with the same group of girls she'd been hanging out with since summer.
My thoughts were interrupted as Meghan came bounding up to the table, returning from throwing out her tray, "Aren't you all friends with that Veronica person?" she asked quickly. Too impatient to listen to our replies she hurried on. "Because if so, she is spreading some awful rumors about you Ginny! Something about a guy named Bart...or was it Mart? Whatever..." she waved it off as insignificant.
I felt like I'd been punched in the gut and had to fight the urge to scream, cry and/or throw up all at once. I felt Todd reach out for me, his hand grazed my shoulder as I stood up. "Ginny?" Todd asked as I moved away from the table. I looked over at Veronica's table and saw she was gone now, most of the girls were still there. "Ginny..." I could barely hear Todd.
"Who's Bart?" I heard Erik ask as I headed for the cafeteria doors. I briefly wondered what Todd and Timothy would say but pushed them out of my head. I saw her coming out of the old girls' locker room, at the end of the hall and headed straight for her.
"Hey Gin!" Veronica said with the same phony smile from earlier. "I hope you've reconsidered your vote!"
"I have, instead of being doubtful - I can assure you that I will never vote for you." I said. Once again the phony smile dropped and she looked at me with loathing. "You are a horrible person Veronica Meyers; you don't care about anyone, you walk all over people and expect them to still be your friend but you don't know the meaning of the word friend."
"Wha-" Veronica sputtered, caught off guard by the venomous tone.
"Shut up!" I said loudly, close to yelling. "You don't get to talk right now." To her credit, she stayed quiet. "You crossed the line Veronica - you've done it before I keep foolishly forgiving you thinking that somewhere in there is someone I used to know but I realize now that I've been lying to myself about that. You deserve your new friends, enjoy them until they turn around and stab you in the back the same way you've done to me and every other friend you've had. I'm done with you. I'm done with your crap. Don't ever talk to me again V."
"What the hell is your problem?" Veronica replied. "All hurt and wounded because of a few little rumors?" she mocked.
"The rumors don't bother me, I know the truth. The source bothers me; and the fact that it's a repeat performance - don't you think you should make up new lies now that we're older V?" I said rolling my eyes. I turned to walk away from her, willing myself to walk away and stay calm.
"How is Bart Gin?" Veronica persisted, undaunted.
I spun around and slapped her, hard, across the face. My hand stung as I pulled it away from her. "Bart's dead." I practically spit the words at her.
I could see the shock, horror and sadness flash across her face. "He's been dead for two years." I said. I was shaking as I turned from her this time; thankfully she kept her mouth shut. I was halfway down the hall when Erik came out of the cafeteria and met up with me.
He didn't say anything to me or prompt for any answers, he just put his arms around me in a friendly, familiar hug and I welcomed it. I don't know how long we stood there before I felt sensibility returning to me. "I hate her" I said into his shoulder.
"No you don't" he said simply.
I had to agree with him there, I didn't hate her exactly. "I want to hate her." I revised my statement and pulled away from him as tears stung my eyes. "It would be easier if I hated her I think."
"Maybe, or maybe not." Erik said with a small smile. "You okay?"
"I don't know. Thanks Erik, for the hug, for being there..." I said, slowly starting to feel a little awkward.
"I'll always be there for you Gin, you should know that." Erik said.
"I should probably but sometimes I forget that we are doing that friend thing." I said with a weak smile.
"Well, I'll have to remind you more often." He said, gracing me with a swoon worthy smile.
I gave Erik a hug and lingered a moment to take in the feel of his comforting arms around me. "You're a good friend." I whispered. Reluctantly we parted as the noise of footsteps and clattering of trays came pouring out of the cafeteria as lunch ended.
Todd and Timothy came over quickly, followed by Nai'a and Meghan. "You okay?" Timothy asked.
I smiled and took both their hands. "I think so." I smiled back at Erik, who now had a flirty, clingy Meghan attached to his side. I flinched away from the sight of the two, but when I looked back I could see that Erik trying to pull away from her somewhat. I returned my attention to Timothy. "Let's win this election." I said, feeling the urge to see Veronica defeated.