"Ugh! That's all they've done since Mom officially ungrounded Todd!" Meghan said; shooting Mei-Ling and Todd a disgusted look.
It was Family Night at the Anderson house - or it was supposed to be but Mrs. Anderson had to work late. Todd had invited James and I over to hang out; of course James was an hour away in one of his late classes but he promised he would be there before the night was done.
"Please promise me that you and James won't do that when he gets here - there's only so much I can take." Meghan said.
"Hmm?" I asked. On the one hand, I was busy thinking about other things but mostly I'd just become pretty good at tuning Meghan's high speed chatter out. "Sure sure." I said.
Meghan rolled her eyes and turned the volume up on the television. "We are going to do SOMETHING tonight right?" she asked. "I mean I could totally be doing something better than this..."
"Like what?" Todd asked; apparently he and Mei-Ling had come up for air.
"Anything is better than this." Meghan said sulking. The doorbell rang then and she shot up. "I'll get it!" she exclaimed, as Todd and Mei-Ling resumed kissing. I heard her open the door, "Oh you must be James!" she said happily.
I turned to see Meghan had looped her arm with James's and was walking him into the house. I rolled my eyes and bit back the urge to use some of the martial arts I'd learned on her butt - or better yet I'd ask Mei-Ling to do it. I got up to save him from her flirty, freshman clutches. I kept my eyes on his face and my smile for him as I made brief introductions. "James, this is Meghan - Todd's younger sister. Meghan, this is James - my boyfriend." I said placing emphasis on the "my".
James smirked as Meghan rolled her eyes and released his arm. "A little possessive?" James whispered as we sat on the other couch.
"Maybe." I said with a wink. To Meghan's annoyance, James and I did spend a good portion of the evening mirroring Todd and Mei-Ling.
"This is lame." Meghan said. "Can't you guys do this some other time?"
All she got in response were a series of mumbles. James was the first to suggest we actually watch the movie; out of consideration for Meghan. Eventually the rest of us fell in line. The movie was almost over when Todd spoke up. "So this weekend is my first real and full weekend of freedom - what are we going to do?"
"We could all go to a movie." Mei-Ling suggested.
"Yeah right, like y'all would actually watch it." Meghan said; clearly still annoyed.
"How about the Fire Pit?" I suggested. "They just reopened last weekend."
"Sounds great!" Meghan said with a huge grin. "I've never been to the Fire Pit!"
Todd and I exchanged a look. "Um, Meg...."
"Oh come on! I promise, you won't even know I'm there!" she was getting that pleading look in her eyes. "Although I am so not gonna be a fifth wheel again, maybe I'll bring a date as well. I wonder if Erik is busy..."
I involuntarily tensed when she mentioned Erik and felt James shift slightly beside me but I couldn't make myself look. I was sure I would look guilty even if nothing was going on. Across from me Todd was looking at me concerned.
"So the Fire Pit! Saturday night?" Meghan was practically bouncing in her seat at the prospect.
"Sure." Todd and I said at the same time. We laughed awkwardly; I could only hope that it would cover up my tension.
Meghan managed to get Erik in on the evening. It felt like the most awkward triple date in the history of triple dates. At least to me. Every time we were near each other on the dance floor, I found my eyes straying over to Erik; and every time, he was looking at me. He smiled at me and I had to yank my eyes from his.
James didn't say anything, I don't know if he noticed or if he just didn't want to mention it. But I felt sick and guilty all night. After having to excuse myself to try and calm my stomach down a couple times, James started looking at me with such concern in his eyes that I felt new waves of guilt. 'But I didn't do anything!' I reminded myself.
The club was getting busy and the floor was growing more crowded with each song. As another one ended, James placed his hand on my arm and leaned in close. "Care to sit one or two out?" he said over the noise.
I nodded. "Sure."
"You okay Ginny?" he asked as we walked over toward a quieter area.
"Sure, why wouldn't I be?" I asked, hoping that the bad lighting kept him from being able to read my face.
James shook his head and shrugged. "I don't know, you just seem off."
"Oh" I shrugged. "Just a little queasy, it's really crowded tonight." I lied. Gah, I was lying to him, that's never good.
"Come on, we'll see if the rooms upstairs are a little better; and there are chairs." he said sliding his hand into mine. I followed, grateful to get away from the crowd; to get away from Erik for a few. The second floor was as bad; and worse it was all tables and chairs - everyone of them surrounded by people. The third floor, the Lounge, was pretty mild though. There was Andre hitting on some poor freshman and another couple making out but otherwise it was still quiet. James and I occupied a couch and I felt the fresh evening breeze coming in from the open windows. Leaning against him, the tension and unease left me.
I heard the footsteps crossing the metal floor but I didn't look to see who it was. I didn't have to, somehow, I just knew.
"Hey Erik." James said before pulling me just a little closer and leaning in for a kiss.
By the time the kiss broke, Meghan was standing by Erik like a wolf who'd just found her prey. I gave them each a smile; an entirely fake smile. And my stomach flip flopped as Meghan started flirting with Erik. I could say I was proud of myself - I didn't tense that time.
Of course when Erik flirted back and my stomach flopped again; I'm pretty sure I did tense. I couldn't look directly at James but I suspected he was watching me. 'This has got to end.' I thought not really sure what the 'this' part was but something had to end.
Todd and Mei-Ling found us and took over the couch across from us before Meghan could somehow get Erik on to it. Yeah that was the last thing I needed; to see Erik and Meghan cuddling. The mere thought of it was making me ill. As if trying to push the thoughts from my head, I turned toward James for a long, sensuous kiss. 'There! Take that!' I thought toward myself - the part of me longing for Erik at least.
James was pleasantly startled by the advance but didn't argue.
James wasn't dumb - I knew that. I was absolutely certain he'd felt my tension about Erik. I was absolutely certain he was wondering what exactly was going on to make me act the way I was. Did he think I was cheating on him? I felt a new wave of guilt hit me but tried to smile instead of let it show on my face.
"You sure you're okay?" James asked quietly. "I can take you home."
"I'm okay, thanks." I said with a reassuring, albeit fake, smile.
"Okay." James said, although he didn't look entirely convinced. After a moment he turned his attention to Mei-Ling. "You attend CSU right? I think I've seen you on campus a couple times."
"Yes, I just started this year." Mei-Ling said with a friendly smile.
"Mei-Ling is from China originally; she was here a couple years ago as a transfer student." I explained.
"Which is where we met." Todd said happily. He was a completely different person than he had been last year.
"Well welcome back." James said. "Did you select CSU due to proximity?"
Mei-Ling smiled guiltily. "Partially. I hope to go transfer in a couple years..." she looked at Todd and smiled.
"After I graduate from high school myself." Todd said with a smile.
"And you, Ginny has told me much about you - are you planning to stay at CSU after you graduate high school?" Mei-Ling asked. Part of me was overjoyed; it was one question I simply couldn't bring myself to ask. The other part of me ached because I'm not sure I wanted to hear the answer.
"Well, no." James said betraying the slightest bit of awkwardness. "I applied to Yale last year; before I knew I would be graduating early, and was accepted." I knew all this of course. My concern was after December. "I revised my application for a Spring admittance, and actually just got the acceptance letter this week." he didn't look at me as he said it.
"Well that is wonderful!" Mei-Ling said. "Congratulations." She looked at Todd when he didn't say anything and he obliged with an awkward smile and a faint congratulations. He was watching me for my reaction.
"Congrats James." Erik said over Meghan's shoulder; they'd be flirting the whole time so I wasn't even sure they'd be listening.
I smiled at James but couldn't say anything. I wanted to be supportive; I really did but I didn't want him to leave either. On the other hand, I was clearly conflicted about Erik too; which wasn't really fair to James.
Why couldn't I just have them both? Was that too much to ask? 'Yes you nitwit' that obnoxious inside voice said.