Somehow I didn't realize it was December until I was sitting there, checking my email and saw a bunch of emails about trips for winter break. Was it really winter already?! It didn't really feel like winter, of course it never felt like winter around here. Someday - I would live somewhere where there were seasons.
I cleared out the last of the "Ski Trip Specials" emails and was about to close down internet explorer to go to school when another new email popped up. It was and e-vite from an automated site so I couldn't see the sender or details without opening it. Opening it, I read the top line.
"James Dunmire would like to invite you to his graduation party! Saturday, December 16th at 8PM..." it went on with the RSVP details. I hovered over the RSVP button for several minutes. We were friends, we'd broken up amicably...and I did want to see him again before he left town. I heard my dad calling from the kitchen and hastily clicked yes and then shut down the computer.
"You're going to be late, Todd and Meghan are outside already." my dad said, handing me a muffin as I grabbed my backpack from the front hall. "Does that girl ever stop talking by the way?" he asked.
I shook my head and gave him a quick kiss. "Sadly not." I said, running out the door to my car and passengers.
"Hey Ginny!" Todd said as we go under way toward school. "You get the e-vite from James? I thought you two broke up."
I started to reply but heard a gasp and sputter from the backseat and glanced back to see if Meghan was choking or something. "You guys broke up?" she asked; she looked anxious at the thought that I was no longer attached to James.
"Mmhmm" I said with a nod. Looking over at Todd, "He invited you too?" Todd nodded in assent and I chewed over this new development the rest of the trip to school.
At school, Nai'a approached first about the e-vite. "Aren't you two broken up? I mean, he's a nice guy and all but if you two aren't a couple doesn't that like...sever the link?"
I didn't even get a chance to reply before Erik approached us. "Did you all get invited to James's grad party too?"
"Yes, he invited everyone I guess! Yes I plan to go! Yes I'm still friends with him! Whether you all go is up to you!" I said quickly and pushed past them. I'm sure they thought I'd gone mental; I felt mental! It felt weird that James had invited "my" friends even after we'd broken up. It probably shouldn't, they'd all gotten along with James well enough and he was probably trying to be nice - but they were my friends! He had his own friends and his own high school! Why did this bother me so much?!
All of my friends decided to go to the party after all. I'm not sure if they felt rude to refuse or were trying to be supportive of me or simply wanted a good party. Nai'a even managed to drag Timothy out of his house; he hadn't been willing to go to anything lately and we were all a little anxious for him. I was happy to see him at the party and happy to see he seemed to be having a good time. Whatever had been pressing down on him lately, seemed to have been lifted for the night anyway.
Meghan, who I never really thought got an invitation and had merely attached herself to us once again, hung onto Erik's arm as if he were a life raft. The more desperate she acted, the more secure I felt that Erik hadn't given her any real encouragement at all. I'd seen him flirting with her on occasion of course - those moments had made me more jealous than they should have considering I was dating James at the time. But, in hindsight, I could tell that she was doing most of the flirting and he was just trying not to crush her little freshman heart.
I probably could have cut in and burst her little delusional bubble, but I wasn't in the mood to dance really. I hung back from the crowd near the buffet table while considering why I'd come to this party instead. 'Ever the life of the party Gin' I thought bitterly.
Todd had invited Mei-Ling as well, but since she was over an hour away, it wasn't too surprising that arrived at the Castle well before she did. He came over to me and put his arm around my waist. "Hey, you okay?" he asked quietly.
"Um, I think so." I said fiddling with the selection of food on my plate. "I'm not sure why I'm here...except maybe to torture myself."
"You're being supportive of a friend; like you always are." he said, snatching a baby corn from my plate.
"Hey! Those are my favorite!" I said with a small laugh.
Todd grinned, showing off bits of my chewed up baby corn in his mouth. "Mine now!" he said.
"Ugh! You can keep it now!" I said but chuckled. Being best friends for so long, we'd grossed each other out far worse over the years. I saw Mei-Ling enter the room and pointed her out to him. "Better stop acting like a dweeb now." I called as he went over to her. He turned to wink at me as he led her into the throng of people to dance.
He was barely gone when someone else claimed my attention. "Thanks for coming Ginny." James said. He stood a small distance away from me and we both seemed to notice it.
"Congratulations James." I said. We shared a (slightly awkward feeling) hug. Unsure of what to say next, we both stood there, moving slightly to the music. "Are you having an actual graduation ceremony?" I asked finally breaking the silence.
"No, there are only two people graduating early so they'll just combine it with the normal May ceremony. If I'm in town I can walk with the rest of my class though." he explained.
"And will you?" I paused. "Be in town then I mean?"
"Um, I don't know. I haven't really thought that far ahead." he said. The silence between us resumed and I fidgeted with my food. To my surprise, he took the plate from my hands and placed it aside and then took my hand. "Will you dance with me?" he asked. He had that familiar mischievous smile on his face that had always hooked me. It worked this time as well and I let him lead me into the crowd.
"Ginny, you don't look happy." James said after awhile. "I thought breaking up was what you want but didn't want to be the one to do..."
"I'm..." I let the music cover the silence as I thought about what I wanted to say. "I'm feeling confused James." I said feeling a slight sting of tears in my eyes. "I never wanted to break up exactly; but I think it needed to happen. I guess I was a coward about that huh?"
"No, not a coward. You didn't know what you wanted...right?" he replied, stroking my cheek. "I like you Genevieve Bartlett, I have been captivated by you for over a year now and I am so happy with the time we had together."
"See now when you say things like that, it just makes me more confused." I said with a pathetic laugh. "I like you too James, it's just...I still don't think I know what I want."
"I know Ginny, it's okay. You're allowed to not know." his palm was warm against my cheek. "But should you find yourself in need of a friend...or some sort of clarity, I will always be there for you. Just a phone call or email away."
"Thank you James." I gave him another hug and this time it didn't feel awkward at all.
"Can I give you one small piece of advice?" James asked, still holding me fairly close. I nodded my consent, "Take time for you and you alone. It's okay to be alone sometimes you know. Might help the confusion you're feeling clear a bit if you don't have anyone else around."
I chewed on my lower lip a bit as I thought about his words and then I hugged him one more time. "Thank you, for the last year - you are a great guy James. Possibly a perfect guy." I said with a smile. I didn't want to say goodbye, I lingered a moment before kissing his cheek. I left it at that and walked out of the Castle feeling a little easier than when I'd arrived.
The party continued without me as I knew it would. Outside, I found a quite spot on the hill and sat down in the grass, looking up at the same stars Todd and I had looked upon as kids and the same stars Erik, Todd and I had looked upon just last week.
Maybe he was right, maybe I needed to be alone in order to think clearly....