Jason was waiting up for me after Eric unceremoniously dropped me off. Had I really expected anything less? Sometimes it sucks that he knows me so well. He took one look at my face and followed me to my room. He closed the door behind him and sat on my bed. “What happened?” he asked.
I motioned for him to turn around so I could change. Once I couldn’t see his face, I took off my sundress and changed into pajamas, using the time to tell him about the night. How I had told Eric from the start that I hadn’t wanted anything serious. How I just wanted to hang out with him when I could and enjoy his company. I didn’t tell him about the sex; I’m not that stupid.
Once I was dressed, I told him he could turn around. I told him how Eric had wanted more and it had become an “all or nothing” situation for him. I flopped down on my bed and stared at the ceiling.
“I don’t want it all. I’m probably going to have to drop out of drama as it is to keep up with everything else. He knew this from the freaking start. Why the hell couldn’t he let things be?”
Jason looked at me, bewildered. “You really are my sister, aren’t you? You got this generation’s version of, well, me, to want to commit and you blew him off? Part of me wants to applaud; the other part wants to smack you upside your head. Sook, you just entered the dating world and I’m worried that I’ve influenced you too much. Now, I don’t go for that garbage Mom throws out about you needing a boyfriend. Dating is fun. You can see who you want when you want.
“But when you spend a lot of time exclusively with one person, they tend to get expectations. That’s partly why I never stay with one girl for too long. And I get where you’re coming from. Playing the field is the way to go for some people. But sis, the big, bad truth is that the double standard is still out there. If I were a girl and lived my life the way I do, I’d be pegged as a slut by everyone. Hell, I probably am anyway. Did you ever give Eric any reason to think you would want to get into a relationship?”
“Hell no! I told him up front and at the start that I wanted things to stay casual. I did the boyfriend thing with Rasul. There were upsides, but I hated having to clear any plans I wanted to make with a third party. I like having my time and doing what I want. He knew that from the beginning. And all of a sudden, that wasn’t good enough. He said he wanted all the privileges a regular boyfriend would have once school starts.”
Jason’s expression changed to thoughtful. “Well, that’s a little different. You guys don’t really run in the same circles, right? I doubt school has changed much in the past three or four years. I was where Eric is now. With you making the dance squad, you’re going to have more contact with his group of friends than before. This is how it was: the only way he’s going to be able to keep other guys away from you is by being able to call you ‘his’. If you’re with him, they would be hands-off. But you’d be free game if you’re ‘just friends’. You already had to deal with Bill. Can you imagine that, to maybe a lesser degree, from all the guys he runs with?”
I huffed, frustrated. “That was sort of his explanation too. Why can’t you guys understand that I can handle myself? If someone tries something with me that I don’t want, I’m not some fucking damsel in distress that needs the big, strong prince to come rescue her! You think I can grow up with you and not learn a few things?”
He chuckled. “I guess you’re right about that. So what? Is this thing with Northman over for good?”
I sighed and flopped on my back again. “I don’t know. He sure made it seem that way when he dropped me off. But you know what? I’m not going to worry about it until I absolutely have to. Who knows? Maybe between the paper, dance, work, homework, and SAT prep, I won’t even have time to think about him. If that’s the case, I’m probably better off, right?” I looked up at him hopefully.
He shrugged. “I don’t have any idea. I’ll ask at the end of September. If you can say ‘Eric who?’, we’ll have the answer. I’m gonna turn in. Get some rest and I’ll see ya in the morning. You’re off tomorrow, right?”
“Yep, and I plan on sleeping as late as I can. Good night.” Jason flipped my light off as he left and I turned to lay on my pillows. I didn’t expect to fall asleep as easily as I did, but talking with my brother has helped me figure out where my head was, and that let me slip easily into unconsciousness.
I woke up to a knocking on my window from some guy in a tan uniform. I groggily rolled my window down. “No overnight parking. You need to go,” he said in heavily accented English. The horizon was just turning light orange. Fuck.
I apologized to the guy and pulled away. The clock on my dash told me it was around five thirty. I hit the first open convenience store and got a large coffee. I normally never drank the stuff, but I wanted to make it home in one piece and needed to wake up. I made my way back to the house, taking sips from the foam cup, and ended up pulling into the driveway right before my mom. She gave me a tired version of the stink eye, but made no comment. We made our way into the house silently and went to our respective rooms.
I flopped down on my bed, replaying the previous night. I was still pissed, but the more I thought about what had happened, I came to the realization that it wasn’t entirely Sookie’s fault. She had told me from the start that she didn’t want a boyfriend. I had agreed to go along with her desire of something casual and undefined.
We had been together so exclusively for the past month, I had thought it was merely her stubbornness that kept her from moving onto the next step. But no, apparently the idea of being my girlfriend was fucking offensive to her. She didn’t want to socialize or be together in public.
What had she really been doing on the nights that we hadn’t been together. She still seemed pretty friendly with that fucker Sam when he was waiting tables at Merlotte’s. It didn’t seem that they had only been on one date, and that one a disaster. And was that Alcide guy still with his girlfriend? Would it matter?
I shook my head, knowing that my drowsy head was going places it shouldn’t. Sookie wasn’t devious or manipulative. She would have told me if there had been anyone else. She wasn’t the type to sneak around. I was mind fucking myself over her.
She said that she was going to be busy this year. I got that and understood, even if I didn’t carry the same insane load of activities that she did. Junior year is stressful because that’s the one that colleges usually look at for admissions. But my senior year was going to be that way since I was counting on an athletic scholarship to get into college. Scouts had been out to see me, but were waiting until this year to make any offers.
It still couldn’t help ease the burn of the dismissal that I had received the night before. I had never experienced being told “no” before. Was this what the girls I’d played with for the past two years had experienced. The emptiness caused by rejection? It hurt even more because I had opened up to Sookie, gave her parts of me that no one else had ever had. Her disregard of that was what burned the most.
But I couldn’t deny that I would have jumped on her and kissed her if she were to walk in at that moment. I didn’t know what to do with myself without her. I settled back and waited for the day to pass. At least I had practice to occupy me for the two weeks until school started.
Sunday was heaven. I woke up slightly before noon and made myself a BLT from breakfast leftovers. I took a drive to see Gran and get her tales from the week-long DoGD field trip. I went to tell Tara about the developments of the weekend, both good and bad and decided to talk our talk to the beach.
She hopped in my car and we drove to the lake after changing into bathing suits. It was a little late in the afternoon to tan, but the warm sun on our skin was relaxing. I thanked her for her help in choreographing a routine that got me onto the dance squad. And I told her about the… well, I guess I had to call it a break-up, with Eric. I didn’t know what else to call it, even though the definition wasn’t entirely accurate.
“What was I supposed to do, T? We were casual. It was easy. No drama. And then he goes and demands some kind of definition of what we were and wanted ‘boyfriend’ privileges.” I was laying on my back and turned my head to my left to check her reaction.
She turned her head toward me and raised her eyebrow skeptically. “What special privileges would a boyfriend have that he didn’t have before last night?”
“Hell, I don’t know. The ability to call himself my boyfriend and me his girlfriend? To hold my hand through the halls and meet me after school and shit like that.”
“What’s so bad with that? From what you told me Jason said…”
I groaned. “Not you too! It’s not for my own damn good. Look, how did you know JB was right for you.”
She chuckled. “Hon, JB’s a sweetheart, but he’s dumber than a box of hair. He lets me control the relationship. I get to do my dance classes and he can go out with Tray and Alc and do his thing. We see each other when we have the chance. But there’s no pressure to be together all the time, ya know?”
I sat up on my elbows. “That’s what I wanted. Exactly. He can do his thing and I can do mine and we get together whenever. But he’s not used to not being in the driver’s seat, ya know?”
“Sugar, you know you want more than that…”
I lifted my sunglasses and looked at her. “No. I really don’t. A playmate. That’s all I fucking wanted. Any other teenage boy would be fucking thrilled. Eric was the perfect guy for the job. No strings. No commitments. And fucking feelings had to get involved.”
Tara’s voice turned stern. “And you need to get over yourself. You wanted more than a fuck buddy, and no matter how many times you say it, it doesn’t change the fact that you were falling hard for him if you hadn’t already. And that scared the shit out of you. What is it going to do to you if he goes back to his man-whore ways after school starts? Is it not going to faze you or is it going to rip your fucking heart out? You need to answer that before you decide where to go from here. Think about that. Think about seeing him walking down the hall with one of the cheerleaders or one of your teammates on the dance squad hanging off his arm and giggling. Are you going to swap books in your locker and go to class or are you going to have to restrain yourself from grabbing the bitch by her hair? I know you Sook, and you don’t like to share.”
I put my sunglasses back on. Damn her for knowing me so well. But that’s because she’s been my friend for so long. We laid on the sand for a little longer in silence while I let her words sink in. I just had to hope that what I was thinking would actually happen. That I would be to busy with everything to think about him. I could only hope.
I dropped her off and went back home. Mom and Daddy asked about my date since I hadn’t seen them. I shot Jason a quick look and said I didn’t know if I would be seeing Eric anymore. Mom looked sad, but Daddy just kind of shrugged and went on to talk to Jason about clearing some of the fields in the next few weeks.
I went up to bed and crashed, knowing I had a long day ahead of me. My regular shift and my first day of dance squad practice
I was in hell. Years of keeping emotion out of my life had not allowed me to school my features into hiding what I felt. Fortunately, my predominant emotion was “pissed off”. One look at my face during practice was enough to keep my teammates from bugging me. I met up with Max afterward and went to Merlotte’s to eat.
I knew Sookie wouldn’t be working since she had dance squad practice. I thought back a couple of nights to the private show she had given me, and I wanted to drive my fist through a wall. Things had been so good that night, and now everything was all fucked up.
I went into the pool room and froze. Bill and Clancy were already there, with Thalia sitting on Bill’s lap. Despite how I felt about Sookie, I still loathed my former friend. He met my gaze with a cold smirk.
“She’s not here if you’re looking for her.”
I shrugged. “I know. I’m not.”
His smirk grew colder. “Tired of her already? I’m not surprised. I never figured she’s be good for more than a time or two.”
A red haze started. Who the fuck was he to say something like that about her. I felt my hands ball into fists and my jaw clench. I knew if I stood there any longer, I would seriously injure him in a way that couldn’t be passed off as “falling”. I turned and walked out to my car, not caring if any of my so-called friends followed me.
I drove around windy back roads listening to loud, aggressive rock. It didn’t help. Pride wouldn’t let me call her. But I wanted to. I just had to kill some time until school started and get lost in the activity to get her out of my head (because that worked so well last time, right?). Two weeks. I just had to last two more weeks.
I usually left practice and picked up some food for myself and Pam on my way home. Having her there was a bit of a relief in the form of a distraction. She was a pain in the ass for the first few days, until she saw that the teasing me about Sookie was not the way to go. We would watch TV and eat our fast food. I would head to my room and play some video game, but I didn’t put any effort into it. I would invite my sister to play with me, just for the companionship, needing some kind of competition. And damn if she wasn’t good and would kick my ass so definitively that I had to wonder if she had been sneaking in and playing when I was gone.
The weeks passed until Labor Day arrived. Finally. School would start the day after. Since it would be the last day it was open officially, there was going to be an all-day beach party at the lake. As they always were, all ages were welcome and Pam wanted to go meet her friends. Dad was no where to be found, as usual, and Mom was at the hospital, also as usual. I really felt like staying home and moping, but I decided to take Pam and a few of her friends just to get out of the house.
I was surprised by how much I thoroughly enjoyed the dance squad. We spent the first couple of days getting to know each other and our strengths and what we needed to work on. We also tried to get a list of songs we could dance to. We had six home games, so we needed six upbeat, but clean songs we could work on routines for. Everyone there had their I-pods out scrolling and we put together a tentative list. We had Black Eye Peas, Brittany Spears, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Beyonce were all represented and a few alternates. Halleigh approved all our selections and called us over to several huge cardboard boxes she had just lugged in.
“Now, you may or may not know, since we have some new team members, but we did get to the state championship last year and I think this team can go even further, if what I saw at the auditions was anything to go by. Because of that, our budget was doubled and I was able to get us a few new uniforms. I wanted to get your opinions.” She opened the first box. Spandex royal blue sports-bra style tops and skirts that came to about mid thigh and seemed to be made of black fringe, with royal blue bloomers underneath (I swear to God that’s what they were called. It wasn’t some old fashioned term for underwear. They’re meant to be shown, like under cheerleader skirts. Who knew?). She moved onto the second box. Black halter tops with built-in support and royal blue tap pants. The final box held long sleeved blue cropped tops and mid-calf black leggings, I guess for when the weather got colder. She got to the final box and tossed us all blue and black zip up hoodies with the school mascot (an eagle) on the front and our names on the back. I was impressed. We all also got black Nikes so we matched.
I had to say that being part of a team was nice. I didn’t have to be friends with everyone, but we all made it a point to at least work together so we made each other look good. I sat to the side chatting with one of the other new girls, Danielle, when Felicia, the captain, approached me with a smile just a few degrees shy of friendly. “So how are you liking the area so far?”
Seriously? I was getting sick of this. “I’ve lived here my whole life. I like it just fine.”
She tilted her head, confused. “Were you home schooled?”
I pasted the smile on my face. “Nope, been going to this school since ninth grade.”
“Oh! Right! I think I remember you now. You used to hang out with the hippies by the Fine Arts building, right?”
“With my friends, yeah. I’ll be hanging out with them again this year too.”
Her face filled with fake concern. “Oh, honey, I don’t think that’s wise. They say that one big guy is a drug dealer!”
She would know… Tray supplied just about every party she went to. “Who I’m friends with has no bearing on my performance. But thanks for letting me know you’re concern. I’m sure Tray will get a kick out of that.” She rolled her eyes and walked away. I rolled mine right back at her, only she had already turned.
We practiced every afternoon, so by Labor Day weekend, we felt almost prepared for the first game the following Friday. I was excited to do our thing, and we had voted on the fringed outfit for that first show. It worked out that the band would do their marching routine for the first seventeen minutes of halftime, and we got the last eight minutes. Timing was important.
I had gotten close with the newer girls who weren’t so into the cliques. Danielle, Ginger, Belinda, and I decided to celebrate the last day before school by heading to the beach party. Tara had been invited also, but she was on an end-of-summer vacation with her family. I was glad I was expanding my social circle and getting to know new people. I was looking forward to the beach!