He slid out from under the car and smiled up at me. "Hey Gin." His hands were dirty and there was a streak of dirt or oil or something across his face. He got to his feet and grabbed a rag to wipe off his hands. "How'd you know I was back?" he asked, leaning against the car he'd been working on.
I shook my head slightly. "I didn't. I took a chance."
Erik nodded. "Well what's up?" Without warning, I walked forward and leaned into him, laying my head against his shoulder. Without hesitation, he wrapped his arms around me and just held me there, supporting me without saying a word. He didn't say anything but eventually he coaxed me over the to the bed of the truck so we could sit down. He put his arm around my shoulder and let me just lay against him under the stars.
I may have laid against him for hours, although I know it couldn't have been more than ten minutes. Reluctantly, I pulled away from him to sit up. He seemed even more reluctant to let me go but he did so without saying anything.
"Sorry about that." I said, leaning back against the back of the truck.
"Don't be." he said. "You know I'll hold you any time you need." he added. We were silent for a bit, though it wasn't awkward in the least I noticed. "What's up Gin?" he asked finally.
"James left tonight and I didn't get a chance to say goodbye...." I said feeling crappy. Why had I come to Erik to spill my guts to about James leaving?
"I'm sorry." he said.
"Are you really?" I asked. "I mean...."
Erik put his fingers to my lips before I could say something I would feel horrible about. "I'm sorry you're sad Gin. And I'm sorry you didn't get to say goodbye."
I nodded, his finger still pressed lightly on my lips. I had to close my eyes to resist the temptation to lean over and kiss him. He was what I'd wanted all this time right? But no, not yet.
He seemed to be having the same thoughts I was, at least in regards to the kissing, because he sat up and leaned forward, slowly moving his hand from my mouth in order to cup my face.
It was my turn to place my fingers to his lips to stop him. "I need time." I whispered softly. "You've been unbelievably patient but can we just, take things slowly?"
"You need time," he said pulling back a little. I could see the rejection cloud his face with sadness. "Okay. Time it is." he leaned back in the truck bed and looked up at the stars.
"Time? You told him you needed time?" Nai'a asked in disbelief as we changed for gym class. "But why? You like him, he likes you..."
"Something James said before he left...it seems like since I met Erik; I've always been with someone or drama surrounding someone or some such. I just need so non-awkward, non-drama time. Just Ginny..." I fumbled the explanation.
"Okay....I think I get that...." Nai'a said. I could tell by the look on her face that she was struggling to understand my logic. "What happens if he meets someone? Other than that Meghan twit of course?"
"Um....well I'll try not to take too much time." I said with a weak smile.
"Yeah you try that." Nai'a said with a smirk. "Look, I think I understand what you're saying Ginny but if you know who you want and he wants you then why fight it?"
"Because I'm trying to torture myself?" I said with a chuckle. Nai'a laughed as well just as Coach Reeves came in and told us all to get our butts moving.
With James officially out of the picture - and out of the state - Erik was at my side more often than Meghan's. He was the same flirty guy he was when we'd first met and seemed to be okay with taking things slowly. I was okay with it too, for once we were both single and neither was mad at the other for anything. Meghan, on the other hand, was not okay with it. She glowered at me mostly and tried to steal Erik's attention whenever she could.
Shortly after school went back, we got our SAT results - which was quickly followed by the annual College fair for Juniors and Seniors. Every event like this reminded me that I had no idea what my after high school plans were. I was still trying to survive high school after all!
The Student Council had gone to great lengths to get several colleges to set up tables. Some only sent materials for display but there were also a number of recruiters to ask questions. The cafeteria was converted into a rainbow of colors as each table was decked out with the colors of the college. There were balloons, displays of mascots and even a few that had awards and school trophies on display to show what they were most proud off.
Erik, who I suspected had minimal college plans, followed me over to the University of Texas's table. "You want to go to Texas?" Erik asked surprised.
I shrugged. "My mom went there." I said by way of explanation.
Timothy was talking to a recruiter from some Ivy League school out on the East Coast. I knew he'd done very well on the SATs, and of course was likely to be our class valedictorian at the rate he was going.
"Our Business school is very good, but one of our shining schools has to be Engineering." The University of Texas lady was saying. Neither really sounded like something I wanted to spend at least four years studying but the university was well rounded.
I heard Nai'a giggling and turned away while Erik was asking questions to see where she was. I wasn't sure which school it was but the recruiter sure wore a lot of pink. She didn't look much older than we were either. From what I could see, they had pictures of some of their more famous graduates on display as a means of recruiting.
Erik seemed more interested in the University of Texas than I was, he asked the recruiter dozens of questions while I looked around the room. I noticed Mei-Ling over by the most decorated table, for CSU. California State University was only an hour away and was the nearest university to our town. Timothy had enlisted Mei-Ling, as someone others would recognize, to help with the college fair.
I was ready to excuse myself to go over and talk to her when I saw Veronica approaching the same Ivy League recruiter Timothy had been talking to previously. "Curious" I muttered.
"Hmm?" Erik asked, turning his attention to me. I just shook my head and smiled for the recruiter. "We also have an excellent Arts program - being in the heart of Austin..." and she was off again.
Eventually Erik and I extracted ourselves from the chatty recruiter and made the rounds. At the CSU table, Mei-Ling gave us each a bag full of fliers, a Frisbee with the school name on it and CSU pens. "We're having an event for potential new students in a couple weeks. It's for current high school Juniors and Seniors, you all should come out. The main event is on Saturday night but there are things going on all weekend."
"Sounds like fun." Todd said, I imagine he was mostly excited about the potential of spending an entire weekend with Mei-Ling. He turned toward Erik, Nai'a and I, "You guys going to come?" he asked.
Nai'a just shrugged. "I'll ask my dad." I said, in truth, another college fair geared at recruiting me didn't sound appealing but I would have to get more details from Mei-Ling about it.
"Okay everyone, get together around Mei-Ling" Nai'a announced, pulling out a huge camera. I recognized it as one of the school cameras that the newspaper staff and yearbook staff carted around.
We did as we were told but not without questioning. "What's going on Nai'a?" I asked.
"I joined the newspaper as a photographer!" she said grinning. "I took some classes before moving here and they just lost one so I took a shot and applied. Come on now, everyone look happy!"
"You mean this is gonna be in the school paper?" I asked, looking confused. Of course that's when the flash went off. Great! I'm sure that picture came out good.