Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Sneak Peek #4: Personal Demons
I’m washed through the door of the cafeteria by the human tide and find Taylor and Riley at our usual table, just inside the door for an easy getaway. The walls, floor, and tabletops in the cafeteria are all puke green so the real puke won’t leave stains. Just looking at it always leaves me feeling a little queasy.
Riley’s leaning over a book and picking through her salad with a bent fork. Taylor is bouncing in her seat, her spiky yellow-and-pink hair vibrating wildly. Between the bouncing and the lascivious gleam in her eye, I know there’s no keeping Luc to myself. She knows.
Despite everything, Taylor has always been exactly what I needed in a friend. ’Cause, really, we’re just alike in all the ways that matter. Neither of us is warm and fuzzy. We both have our boundaries to keep anyone from getting too close. And we’ve both respected those boundaries from the beginning. I don’t know what hers are about, and she’s never asked about mine. I’ve never had to be afraid of Taylor pushing me, trying to get through my defenses. And neither has she.
Riley and all her feelings, on the other hand, are dangerous. The first time I ever saw Riley’s face, Angelique Preston was grinding a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone into it. It was the summer after seventh grade, and Taylor and I had walked to the ice cream shop, where Angelique had Riley pressed up against the outside of the building. I could tell from the words coming out of Angelique’s mouth—something along the lines of “lard ass”—and the wounded and humiliated look in Riley’s eyes, that this was no harmless prank amongst friends. Without even stopping to think, I yanked Angelique’s arm off of Riley and twisted her into a headlock. And, in that instant, all in one fell swoop, I made an accidental friend and a mortal enemy.
Looking at Riley now, she’s a mere shadow of her former self. Still curvy, but in a way that turns guy’s heads. I would bet money it was in that moment, shoved up against the brick wall of the ice cream shop, dripping mint chocolate chip, that she’d resolved to lose weight.
“Dish!” they both say as I drop my book bag on the floor.
Taylor glares at me, which she’s very good at. “No holding out, Fee! We know about New Gorgeous Hunk Guy, so dish! Now!”
Great. News travels fast. I go all innocent. “Is he gorgeous? Who said that?”
Taylor’s still glaring. “You’re such a bitch.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“Spill it!" Riley screeches, slamming her book down on the table, and everyone in a three table radius is suddenly staring at us.
“All right. Chill. Let me get lunch,” I say looking at the unrecognizable glop on other peoples’ trays as they pass by. “What the hell is that?”
Riley’s face scrunches. “Probably some tofu thing. The district ran out of money again this week.”
“Great. Let me get up there before all the salad’s gone.” I glance to the door, hoping Luc might change his mind, and make my escape as Taylor simmers. I take my time in the line picking all the best pieces out of the wilty scraps of lettuce, spend at least five minutes choosing the biggest brownie, and sip and refill my Coke twice before making my way slowly back to the table. When I get there, I swear there’s steam coming out of Taylor’s ears.
“Dish, dammit!” she says as I slide into my chair.
“He’s just a new guy. Luc.” My eyes gravitate to the door, hoping he’ll appear there.
“Where’d he come from?”
Taylor’s eyes press me. “How’d you meet him?”
“Essay partners, Mr. Snyder.”
“Did he ask you out yet?” Riley asks.
I glance at the door again then roll my eyes. “I couldn’t even get him to eat lunch with us.”
“Hmm…” I can see Taylor’s gears grinding. “He doesn’t really sound like your type.”
I just shrug.
Her eyes are eager. “So, maybe you can hook me up with him?”
And there’s the knot in the pit of my stomach. “Whatever.”
“What about that party Friday? The one at Gallaghers’. You think he’d go if I asked him?”
“You haven’t even met him.” The acid in my voice startles me. I knew this was coming. Why am I surprised?
Her expression shifts to planning mode. She taps her finger on her chin. “The party’s day after tomorrow. If you’re not going to ask him, he’s mine.” She grins at me.
I smile back, as fake and sweet as saccharin. “You know what, Tay? Go to hell.”