Chapter 8: Memories
I brushed past Erik in the hall and gave him a small smile. Two weeks had passed since James and I had...well since that day at the castle. Two weeks and I hadn't told Erik. In fact, I'd lied to him when he asked me how James was. Well it wasn't a lie so much as withholding the truth - but I kind of consider that lying.
I glanced back at him again and then made my way outside; the juniors were having an assembly to talk about the upcoming SATs, College Fair, Career Fair and so many other things. I'm pretty sure some of the staff thought we should all have our lives planned out by now - or at least before our senior year. Nai'a had gotten there early and I took the seat next to her, scooting down so I could prop my feet on the rail in front of me. "Hey" I said.
"Hey Ginny." Nai'a said giving me a smile. "You have that angst look on your face again."
"I do?" I said self consciously. "Wait...what is an 'angst look'?"
"Like you're fretting about something." Nai'a said. "You still haven't told Erik have you?"
I was beginning to really like Nai'a - aside from being a girl I could talk to - she was a very intuitive person. And she and Timothy had become friends - something he was in need of right now. "What? That James and I are broken up?" I asked even though I knew the answer. "No, I haven't."
"Girl, why not?!" Nai'a rolled her eyes at me. "It's so obvious you're both still...whatever. You just need to tell him. Cause that girl Meghan is trying awfully hard to get her claws in him. And then where will you be huh? You'll be free and he'll be dating someone and we'll repeat this whole cycle over again."
I grimaced at the thought of Erik and Meghan dating. I knew she was interested in him but I was pretty sure he wasn't interested in her. "Can we talk about something else?" I said, feeling like I was about to lose my lunch.
"Sure, that girl Veronica....what's the deal with her?" Nai'a asked. "I know she and Tim dated and all but there's more right?"
"Yeah, there's more." I said a little sadly. "Veronica, Todd, Tim and I have known each other since we were kids. Once we all got past the cooties phase, we were a group. It was always the four of us."
"And Veronica wasn't a total witch then?" Nai'a asked.
"Oh she was sometimes. Veronica has issues - has had for a while. She likes to be the center of attention and the rest of us usually let her." I paused to chuckle a bit. "Mostly because it was easier that way. But when she didn't get her way..."
"Tantrum?" Nai'a interjected when I paused.
"She could beat a three year old in the tantrum department."
"She sounds like a gem." she said sarcastically.
I smirked. "Yeah. She wasn't all bad. Most of the time she was a great friend. She would stick up for Timothy if others would pick on him," I looked over at her, "He was a scrawny kid and an easy mark for bullies that didn't take into account V, Todd and I."
"Anyway, even if we fought about something or she threw one of her tantrums, we always made up and the next day would be back at the playground playing together like nothing had ever happened." I smiled as the memories of those easier childhood days came to mind.
"So, what happened?" Nai'a prompted, bringing my focus back around.
"Middle school. Middle school happened." I answered. "Veronica realized that being able to hang out with the cheerleaders was the ticket to being popular. She's good too, just didn't actually care about the cheerleading. So she started hanging out with this girl named Britney - Brit was the only sixth grader to get on the squad and I guess Veronica figured if she was friends with Britney she could be friends with the rest of them."
"It was about that time that Timothy confessed his love for Veronica to me and I confessed my huge crush on Todd to Veronica..."
"You and Todd?!" Nai'a sputtered while laughing. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to laugh it just seems...."
"I know, this was before Erik mind you, and Todd was the boy next door - literally. We'd known each other forever and he was on the six grade football team and he was perfect in my eleven year old eyes." I said with a laugh.
"So Veronica planned this party - at my house mind you - and invited Britney and Bart and of course Todd. She didn't want to invite Tim - this is about the time she decided he was a little too nerdy for her upward mobility - but I'd insisted considering the party was at my house." I continued.
"Ohhh Bart, wasn't he the one..." Nai'a trailed off when she saw the pain that crossed my face.
"Yeah, same Bart." I said quietly. "We roasted some marshmallows, played on the playground some and danced some. Eventually we were all just hanging out by the fire pit my dad had lit for us and Britney suggested we play Truth or Dare." I said with a cringe.
Nai'a raised an eyebrow but kept her mouth shut so I could continue.
"Eventually it was Veronica's turn and she picked Bart. I've never really understood her motives behind this but she dared him to take me in the playhouse to kiss, with the lights off for five minutes. Bart was really cute and had a dark and broody thing going on but I was, of course, crushing on Todd so I was completely embarrassed when she made this declaration. I avoided looking at Bart because I was absolutely certain that my cheeks were going to be beet red but when I finally did, it was clear from his look that this prospect didn't appeal to him either."
"Oh no!" Nai'a exclaimed.
"Yeah he looked so annoyed and, of course, my face probably got even redder then." I said with a chuckle. "Bart sighed loudly before stomping toward the playhouse, leaving me to shuffle quietly after him. I wanted to smack Veronica for doing this to me - in front of Todd no less."
"So, did you and Bart kiss?" Nai'a asked, a look of anticipation on her face.
I laughed. "Um...no. Well not then anyway. The lights were off so none of the other could really see inside anyway. We stumbled toward the little couch and sat there - as far apart as we could manage - for a bit. Bart broke the silence first...'
'Ya know Ginny - um....we don't have to...' Bart trailed off and looked away awkwardly. 'I mean if you want to we could but....they won't ever know.'
"He was so awkward and clumsy! Nothing like the calm exterior he always showed at school. Of course we were eleven so I think everything at that age is pretty awkward and clumsy." I said with a chuckle. "Turns out he actually DID like me and he was upset because of the way things were happening."
"We talked the whole five minutes and even scooted a little closer together on the couch. He put his arm around my shoulders and I think he complimented my hair." I said trying to recall that night. "I blushed even more than - as if my face could get any more red! I was so happy the lights were out."
"He sounds so sweet." Nai'a said with a smile.
"Yeah he was." I said, sad again. "So the next day Veronica spread all these rumors around school that we'd done way more than really happened and Bart thought I'd spread them because I was the only one in there and then wouldn't talk to me for awhile. And then Veronica started dating Todd - who still had no idea I had any sort of crush on him."
"But Veronica knew you did!" Nai'a said angrily.
"Yeah well, Veronica is who she is." I said.
"But still! Gah she is a hateful crow isn't she?" Nai'a fumed for a moment. "But wait! You said that you didn't kiss Bart that night but you implied...." she grinned hopefully.
I laughed. "Yeah, after he decided that I did not actually spread those rumors - about a year later - we dated....well as much as any seventh grader dates. Ya know we sat at the same lunch table and walked together in the hall holding hands and went to a school dance together."
"He was very sweet and tender." I smiled, thinking about the night I'd gotten my first kiss.
"Was it fabulous? When you first kissed?" Nai'a had a dreamy look in her eyes as well.
"Was your first kiss?" I asked with a laugh. "It was sloppy and awkward - like everything else about that age."
"So what happened to Bart?" Nai'a said after she recovered from laughing. "He doesn't go to school here I don't think..."
I looked away from her across the football field where I saw staff setting up for the assembly. "He moved away the following summer." I paused as a few tears formed in my eyes. "And then he died. He was camping and drowned in a lake. His mom told my dad..." I explained before she could ask.
"Oh I'm so sorry Ginny." Nai'a said looking at her toes. The bleachers around us were quickly filling as more juniors filed out for the assembly and I watched as Principal Watts walked up to the microphone.