“So,” I said a little too breathlessly when I interrupted the circle of gossipers. “What’s the ‘down low’?” Okay, maybe when I was nervous I acted stupid. I couldn’t help it, I was born that way. My hands remained stuck in a mock gang sign as I realized no one was talking.
That’s right. It was one of those moments where you walk into a group of people, expecting to join in on the conversation, until you realize the conversation was about you. Samantha’s flawless cream face flushed and she couldn’t meet my gaze. My jaw locked as I felt a few choice words bubble up in the back of my throat. But my venom had a target, and it wasn’t Samantha. It was Dawn Trenton, my new frienemy.
The whole group was tense, and I tried to count how many were holding their breath. There were five total, not including Sam. Jennifer McFerry, the wanna-be redhead with the most annoying laugh the world had ever known. Melissa something-or-other who was still growing into her feet. Meredith Peppers, who was until now considered a good friend, and I couldn’t remember the name of the other girl standing next to Dawn.
“Did I, uh, come at a bad time?” I tried to keep my voice cool, and hated the trembling it did when I suppressed my anger.
Dawn smiled. “No, actually, you have precise timing. We were just talking about—“
“Dawn.” Samantha’s thin voice cut through Dawn’s words. Her face matched her sharp tone and I almost forgave her.
“No, Sam, it’s okay. What did I miss? Let me guess, something involving a certain dumbass named Rick, right?” I narrowed in on Dawn and stuffed my hands into my jean pockets. “Old news, Dawn. We broke up weeks ago. I could give a flying rat’s ass what he’s up to right now.” In the back of my mind I hoped this had nothing to do with the Apollo statue. I wasn’t oblivious to the idea they’d seen the entire ordeal with me and Greek-stalker-boy.
Dawn gave a little shrug, as if what I’d said had no merit in her world, if she even heard me at all. Why was I friends with her again? I trailed my eyes to Samantha, my supposed best friend. Oh, right, that’s why.
“It’s actually about him and Ashlyn,” she said. Her voice had that tone of victory in it that made me want to claw that smirk right off her face.
Samantha broke the paralyzed state of the group, taking my arm and attempting to guide me away, saving me from whatever heartbreak she apparently envisioned I’d have at hearing this. I pulled my arm away. “No, I’m a big girl, Sam. If you guys find whatever she has to say so entertaining, I don’t understand why I can’t be in on it.”
No one could look at me. My fingers dug into the skin of my palms, sure to leave little imprints, assuming I’d ever let them loose. I wished everyone but Sam would just go the hell away. Whatever they were gossiping about regarding my ex-boyfriend wasn’t as important as Henry and his weird reappearance. And, uh, disappearance. Again.
“I just don’t think,” Sam started to say, but was interrupted by Dawn.
“It’s okay, Sam. She said it herself.”
There was a moment I thought perhaps Sam might’ve flung herself at Dawn, and I would’ve really enjoyed seeing how that played out. But a familiar laugh pulled my attention to the pillars on my left. Within the slanting lines of sunlight and ancient stone work of the Greeks walked Rick the ex-boyfriend. Hanging on his arm like an accessory was Ashlyn Morrison: President of Student Council, cheerleader, head of Prom Committee, the Dean’s daughter and all-around envy of almost every girl in
My heart felt like shattered glass all over again. Despite all the times I’d tried to convince myself I was over him, it took seeing him with another girl, Ashlyn of all the people, to realize I utterly and completely was not over Rick Eckart.