I can't believe my dad convinced your parents to let you come out here! We've only been emailing and chatting forever but never met in person! This is going to be epic! Can't wait! Will meet you at the airport. -Gin
I hit the "Send" button and leaned back in my chair. Hayley and I had met online a while back and had clicked right off but I didn't figure we'd actually meet until we were both out of high school but as chance would have it we didn't have to wait quite that long!
"You didn't have to come ya know Dad..." I said. Hayley's flight was landing in the middle of his work day and I could have picked her up and gotten her back to the house all on my own.
"Sure I did." he said. "I promised her parents I'd be here." he added as a way of explanation.
I just nodded but suspected he had other motives, like making sure Hayley wasn't a psycho killer or something. The minutes ticked by slowly while we waited for the plane to land and even when it finally did land, it took awhile for the passengers to disembark.
"Eeee! There she is!" I know I probably let out a dreaded girly squeal but I didn't care as I ran up to her and hugged her.
My dad hung back while we jumped around hugging for a few minutes. When it seemed like we may cause a small traffic jam, he cleared his throat a few times until he got our attention. "You must be Hayley Matson," he said extending his hand.
"Oh yes! Mr Bartlett thank you so much for...well everything!" Hayley said shaking his hand.
"Glad I could help. Why don't we go get your bags?" he started walking and Hayley and I instantly started laughing and chattering again as we followed him toward baggage claim.
Safely back at the house, Dad left us alone to return to work and I showed Hayley around the house. I pointed out Todd's house as well as I'd told her quite a bit about my friends since we'd met online.
It was actually well after lunch time but neither of us had really eaten much. "They only had pretzels and something pretending to be cookies on the flight." she explained.
I made us both sandwiches, which we took upstairs to my room since Dad wasn't here to protest. All my friends were in school still - Dad had been nice enough to let me skip because of Hayley - so we passed the afternoon catching up on each others' lives and playing games.
As soon as the final bell rang, my phone started ringing as my friends started calling to see where I'd been. I didn't miss school that often I guess because my absence had definitely been noticed. "I hope you brought something nice..." I said as I hung up the phone with Erik.
"Nice as in Church nice or as in going out nice?" Hayley asked looking a little anxious.
"Going out." I said with a chuckle. "The Fire Pit's Grand Re-Re-Opening," I held up my hand to stop the obvious question, "is tonight and guess whose very talented boyfriend is playing?"
"Awesome!" she said with a giddy clap of her hands. She started pulling clothes from her suitcase while I dug through my closet. Twenty minutes later we were both ready to go and smiled at each other.
"So why is it the grand re-re-opening?" Hayley asked as we stepped inside the Fire Pit. I would have answered her but my mouth was hanging open as I looked around wide-eyed. For years the Pit had always opened up looking about the same as it had before but this time it looked like they'd gutted the place and completely redecorated the place! "Ginny?" she waved a hand in front of my face.
"Oh! Right!" I explained the tradition to her quickly, still glancing around. "Let's get a drink..." I said. "They're all non-alcoholic of course" I reassured her as I passed her a drink from the bartender.
I had to ask the bartender where the live music would be as the club was so different and he pointed us over to the elevator. "Second and third floors." he said gruffly, "Though ain't nothin' on tonight on the third floor."
Hayley and I rode the elevator in silence. When we stepped out onto the second floor I saw Erik was already playing on stage. The bandmates were unfamiliar to me but they had skills. "Is that Erik?" Hayley asked, her eyes a little wide.
"Yeah..." I said, I was sure I had a dopey dreamy expression on my face but it was kind of intoxicating to see your boyfriend playing on stage.
I grabbed Hayley's arm and dragged her out to the crowd of dancers. I spied Todd and Mei-Ling on the other side of the room and Nai'a and Tim were dancing nearby as well. I thought I saw a flash of V's red hair now and then but the crowd with thick and constantly in motion so it was hard to be sure.
After a couple songs, I introduced Hayley to Todd and Mei-Ling - who happened to be closest to us at the moment - and offered to get us all a round of drinks. I was sitting at the bar waiting for the bartender to finish mixing up our drinks when Nai'a came up to me. "Who's the new girl?" she asked, motioning for the bartender herself.
"A friend of mine from back East." I said. I collected my drinks. "Come on over and I'll introduce you guys." I said before returning to the corner that the others had staked out with a tray full of drinks. Tim and V had also joined the party and Todd had already taken care of introductions it seemed. Though I imagine Hayley could pick them all out without being told. "Hey Mei-Ling, you're still staying over tonight right?" I asked.
"Yes, if it's still alright." she looked over at Hayley for a second and then back at me.
"Of course it's fine - just wanted to confirm." I said.
"We weren't invited?" Nai'a asked teasing, looking briefly toward Veronica than back at me. I'm certain she wasn't befriending V in that moment but looking for a temporary ally.
"Well there's plenty of room..." I said with a smile. Suddenly it became a plan and the boys excused themselves as we talked slumber party.
Nai'a looped her arm with Hayley's and disappeared with her onto the dance floor. I watched for a second as Nai'a made a few introductions and then they started dancing. Mei-Ling excused herself and returned to dancing with Todd and V disappeared to get another drink from the bar.
While I hadn't planned on having a full-fledged slumber party tonight, I smiled a bit at the idea. Sometimes I felt like I had more guy friends than girls so it would be fun to have an all girl evening.
"A pretty girl like you should be dancing." he said as he came up behind me and put his arm around my waist.
"Well, no one has asked me." I replied with a fake pout.
"Mm, that could be a problem." he said. "Maybe I could help there..." he said taking the glass gingerly from my hands and putting it down on a table nearby. "Would you care to dance?"
Dad, while surprised, was not upset when his house was invaded by two more teenage girls than he'd been expecting. "Sorry." I mouthed as we all filed into the house. Dad just shrugged and waved to everyone.
We were all feeling grungy and sweaty from the club so we took turns showering and changing into PJs. I let everyone else go before me while I pulled out the air mattress and extra pillows and blankets for everyone.
Nai'a, Veronica and Hayley were talking on the beds when I realized Mei-Ling had been in the bathroom for some time. I knocked lightly on the door of the bathroom, "Mei-Ling...you okay in there?"
"Oh yeah..." her voice sounded off, nervous even but I tried not to think about it to much. "I'll be out in a few minutes." she said. The water started running then and I wondered what she'd been doing all this time if she hadn't even showered yet.
A few minutes later she emerged, her clothes tucked tightly in a ball. Her eyes looked a little puffy. "You okay?" I asked quietly, not wanting to get unnecessary attention from the others.
She nodded quickly and tucked her stuff into a corner of the room and then joined Nai'a on the air mattress for the gab session. They were all peppering Hayley with questions when I stepped into the bathroom for my own shower.
Showers were followed by mini-makeovers where my limited make up collection was combined with whatever everyone else had to turn us into teenage street walkers. Veronica used her magic to tease our hair so high that it was a wonder our heads didn't fall over. "We could be the next entrants into the Ms. Street Walker USA pageant." I said as I stared at the abomination in the mirror that used to be my hair and face.
I saw the pillow a second too late and soon the war was on!
We tore apart the newly made beds as we jumped and ran around trying to catch each other with out feathered weapons. I landed a few glancing hits and a few head on collisions. We probably would have continued until one us broke a leg if we hadn't heard my dad on the stairs and collapsed on the beds quickly as if to hide our actions. Like he hadn't heard the stampede of elephants in the bedroom.
Finally we started dropping like flies, succumbing to the buzz crash from the evening. I don't think anyone actually covered up or laid down with the intention of sleeping - we merely fell asleep wherever we landed.
The sun was actually barely up when I opened my eyes. I didn't really want to be awake seeing as I'd only gone to bed about four hours earlier but the sun was pouring through the window and I could detect the happy smell of waffles drifting through the house.
Apparently I wasn't the only one up as I heard movement in the corner followed by a muffled grunt and then a sharp shriek. "Oh crap! Sorry Mei-Ling!" V was saying. I peaked over Hayley's shoulder and figured V's feet had slipped off the small table they were propped on before and landed on Mei-Ling's head as Mei-Ling was now rubbing her forehead and V was blushing - actually blushing!
That incident was enough to wake up anyone still trying to hold onto the last precious moments of sleep and we all stumbled down the stairs, following the enticing smell of food.
"Morning girls." my dad said. A series of "good mornings", "heys" and other sounds pretending to be a greeting of some sort came forth as we descended on the waffles. Of course everyone liked their waffles a little differently so the sheer act of getting every to the table was impossible. I didn't even plate mine as I stood by my dad's side, watching my friends top their waffles with butter and flavored syrups and fruit.
"Thanks Dad." I said, leaning against him.
After breakfast we lounged about in the living room, not really sure what to do with ourselves. Mei-Ling disappeared outside and I excused myself from the others to check on her. I found her sitting by the pool looking sad and anxious. "You alright?" I asked, sitting in the lounge chair beside her.
Mei-Ling looked up at me and shook her head. "I don't know Ginny." she said.
"You can talk to me if you want." I offered. I heard the others laughing as they passed us into the pool house. They were talking about fooseball and smoothies and waved to us. I waved back and looked back at Mei-Ling.
She watched the door to the pool house intently as if they would all suddenly pop back out but after a few minutes she relaxed and looked at me. "You can't tell Todd..." she cautioned.
"Oh..." I gulped and considered my options. On the one hand she clearly needed someone to talk to but what if she told me something Todd deserved to know? Finally I nodded. "Okay..."
"You're sure?" She asked and I nodded. "I was pregnant....or at least I thought I was...." her eyes were wide and brimming with tears. "I'm not - I know I'm not - but it scares me...I mean.." she trailed off, her tears were following freely now. "It's all just going so fast ya know?"
"Yeah, yeah I know." I said, moving to sit beside her and hold her in a tight hug. We sat there for several minutes until she was calmed down and then joined the others lest one of them come out looking for us.
We were well into the Grand Fooseball Tournament of the year when we had to stop to get ready for the football game. The main reason Mei-Ling had planned to stay the night in the first place was so she could go to the game - it was the first one of the season - without having to drive in from campus.
Todd had been selected as the captain this year and he'd been preparing for this game even before school had gone back. He was only really expecting Mei-Ling and I to show up but I'd rallied everyone to support him for this one. We'd all agreed to meet before the game started so he'd be able to know we were all there going into it.
"You ready Todd?" I asked with a smile. Mei-Ling was standing just behind him and watching me closely. I think she was still afraid I'd tell him what we'd talked about but I focused my attention on Todd.
"Oh yeah, we're going to win." he said confidently. I tried not to look dubious but the fact was our team didn't have the greatest record. Still, there was always a chance and a losing streak had to turn to a winning streak eventually right?
Surprisingly, we DID win! In fact we'd just about slaughtered the other team! It took nearly and hour to extract Todd from the throng of players after the game but we made our way to the diner to celebrate. Unfortunately we weren't the only ones with that plan and found the diner was packed! There were a few empty seats here and there but not enough for our large group. "Why don't I go in and get some food and we'll take it over to the park?" Erik suggested.
"Like a picnic?" I asked with a pleased smile. Everyone else agreed to this plan and the rest of us went to stake out a patch of grass while Erik went inside to order.
I had a blanket in my car that I pulled out and laid across the grass. Everyone had just about settled when Erik returned with a basket full of food. "Where'd you get the basket?" Nai'a asked in surprise.
"Susan had it in the back." he said referring to the waitress and partial owner of the diner.
It should have been a picture perfect afternoon really. Riding the high of an unexpected win with all of my friends in the park - it was great. Until Hank Langston - Erik's father - stumbled into view. I foolishly hoped he wouldn't spot Erik but of course he did. He lumbered over toward us and started cursing at Erik though the majority of the words were slurred.
Everyone stared until he turned and half yelled, half spit on them. I could smell the alcohol on his breath as he ranted incoherently. "Hank, just leave okay?" I said.
He spun his attention toward me and I saw the others look away from him and me quickly. "You don't tell me what to do!" He looked at Erik then and his face looked like a drunken sneer. "Gonna let your slut talk to me like that boy?"
That was all Erik needed to be pushed over the edge. He jumped to his feet and dragged his father away from us. "Sure I will, but I won't let you talk to HER like that!" he snapped. "Don't ever talk to or about my girlfriend like that - or at all for that matter!"
Hank was briefly stunned by Erik talking back but he recovered quickly and whipped his hand around as if he were going to hit Erik. But Erik was used to him and easily dodged the drunken swing. After a brief scuffle, Hank glared in my direction and then Erik shoved him into a cab and slammed the door.
When he turned back to the others, they all averted their eyes and stared at the ants that were scampering away with the bits of crumbs from our food. I walked over to Erik and pulled him into my arms. "Sorry about that." he muttered.
"Forget about him," I said giving him several light kisses. I put a semi-fake smile on my face as I turned back to the group. "Let's play a game!" I said cheerfully. The others were eager for a distraction from what had just happened and hurried to clean up the blanket and the plates.
We played several rounds of gnubb, taking turns so everyone got a chance to play and forget. In the end Hayley managed to hit herself more than she did the wooden figures and Todd and Mei-Ling just about slaughtered us all. I had a feeling they'd played this game more than the rest of us.
I turned back toward Erik as I won a round for our side and smiled at him. He smiled back but it was weak. I knew his mind was elsewhere and there wasn't much I could do for that. "I love you." I mouthed to him.
"I love you too." he said quietly.
Note: Hayley Matson is the current heiress for the Legacy "]It's All About The Matson's" by Alex (Ay2cee)