33960 / 43827 words. 77% done!
Turns out Colleen actually had about ten pairs of new shoes since last we tried them on.
"Where the heck to you get all of these shoes? Do your parents really buy them for you?" I marveled at a particularly expensive looking pair of red velvet heels.
"Come on, you know my dad. He'll buy me anything I want because he feels so guilty for being away all the time."
Colleen's dad had one of those jobs where you spend most of your time in different parts of the country, and maybe three months a year at home. Colleen had a theory that this was the reason her parents had not driven each other crazy and gotten a divorce yet.
"Still. I couldn't even imagine asking my mom for this many shoes."
Colleen snatched the heels out of my hands. "Enough yakking! Put them on your feet!" She yanked my sneakers off and crammed on the red shoes. "There you go. You are beautiful."
I looked at my feet, now forever accented by my red "M". This made it extra intriguing to wear shoes that "matched". I felt like I should be more happy right now. I mean, Colleen wasn't sending me hate notes anymore, and we were hanging out together like before. But something felt off, and I couldn't explain it, and I kind of hated it. I wasn't sure if it was me or her, or just that something had happened in the past few weeks that changed both of us. Was it my tattoo? Had it really turned me into a new person? I glanced down at it again.
As if she were reading my mind, Colleen said, "Those shoes make your tattoo look awesome. You should get yourself some ankle bracelets, they'd really draw attention to it."
I turned my foot from side to side. "I don't really know if I want to bring attention to it, actually."
"It's a tattoo, Mads. The whole point is for it to be looked at."
"Okay, maybe, but what if you got it as sort of a private secret?"
Colleen shrugged. "Then you should have gotten it on your uterus. Here, hold still so I can take a picture." She positioned my feet, grabbed her camera, and began snapping photos.
I thought about what the rest of this evening might consist of if I stayed here. There would be more shoes to try on, more pictures Colleen would take to add to her strange collage, and I would be...what? Miserable? Bored?
"Hey, Colleen, listen, I think I'm going to take off, okay?"
Colleen jerked her head up from the camera. "What? Why? I have these amazing white fur boots I think would look great on you!"
I stood up, gathering my backpack and shoes. "I don't know, I'm just not into it today. Maybe later?"
I waited for her to argue with me some more, to try and convince me to stay, but she didn't. Instead, she said, "Okay, yeah. Whatever. See you later."
I tried to quash the feelings of guilt welling up inside of me. Guilt for not wanting to stay and show Colleen I really did want to be her friend again. Or did I? Of course I did. We'd been friends since we could steal each other's pacifiers. So why did I want to get out of this room so badly?
I waved to her, not even bothering to put my sneakers back on, heading out the door barefoot.
** ** **
Once I'd left Colleen's house, I felt relieved for getting myself out of my own discomfort, but I still didn't want to go home. I considered going over to Miriam's, but some part of me felt like that would be akin to cheating on Colleen. So instead, I found my bare feet carrying me in the direction of Alec's house.
As I walked, I tried to sort through my thoughts and figure out what was going on with me. Who was this person, that ditched one of her best friends for a guy she'd barely met? I glanced down at the tattoo. "Is this your doing?" I asked. The tattoo only grinned devilishly at me as I rounded the corner of the street where Alec lived.
I went up to his house and knocked on the door, and as soon as I'd done it, I realized what I was doing. Showing up at this boy's house unannounced with no idea what I was going to say to him, or any clue why I was there. My stomach clenched up, suddenly hoping the door remained shut so that I could just slink off with my dignity in tact.
No such luck. A mom looking woman opened the door.
"May I help you?" she asked. I may have imagined it, but I swear there was a hint of disdain in her voice.
"Uh." The correct response would be, "Is Alec here?" But of course my mind blanked. So I just stared awkwardly at her.
"You're not selling anything, are you? I'd like to help, but we're having some family issues right now, you understand."
I shook my head. "No. Alec. I'm looking for Alec."
"He's not here right now, he's out with his girlfriend," she said.
What? His what?
"Did you need anything else?"
I couldn't make myself react verbally for several seconds. I must have looked like the biggest moron in the history of big morons. Finally, I gave up on the whole trying to talk thing, waved at Alec's mom, and left her holding the door open wondering what the hell this random girl was doing on her porch.
** ** **
Miriam was determined to solve the mystery of Alec's "girlfriend".
"I bet he doesn't really have a girlfriend, his mom was just confused or something. You know how moms are."
I knew she was probably right, because that made the most sense. Why would he make me poi, why would he invite me to Halloween, why would he do any of it if he already had a girlfriend? Unless he was actually a huge jerk, which was always possible.
"What if he does have a girlfriend, though? Or what if it's one of those things where they were meant for each other, and then something happened, like, he had to move away or something, and then she ended up moving into town yesterday and they found each other again and he was so happy he didn't even have time to say, 'Oh, sorry, I found my soul mate again, but thanks for hanging out with me the other day'?"
Miriam slapped her hand on the table, clearly excited about some new idea she had, and trying to chew up the food in her mouth quickly so that she could tell me about it. I waited patiently while I stared into her wide, excited eyes as the slapping continued. Finally, she swallowed, then held up her hands dramatically.
"Okay. Or, it's like in The Little Mermaid, where he's under some sort of spell cast by an evil sea witch in order to make him fall for someone else when the person he really loves is you." She threw her hands down, as if to say, "Mystery solved. You're welcome."
"Um, yeah, that's just as likely. Also, don't use the word 'love'. There's no 'love' going on here. We've gone on one sort of date."
"Yeah, but did you get him to kiss you?"
"I didn't really try."
"Exactly. So you were in the lagoon and all the fish were singing and you totally didn't break the spell."
"Miriam, this isn't The Little Mermaid."
She pointed her banana at me. "But it should be."
"Okay. Seriously. What should I do?"
"Kiss the girl, obviously! I mean, guy."
"Miri. I said 'seriously'."
She set the banana down. "If you're really that worried about it, I'd just call him up and say 'Hey, what's up, I was thinking about the Halloween thing, are you sure your girlfriend wouldn't mind?' or something sneaky like that. Just slip it in."
I nodded. "Good idea, except I don't have his phone number."
"How did you manage to go on a not date with him and not get his phone number?"
"Uh, because it wasn't a date? And apparently he's into the whole Robin Hood, leaving notes on my door thing."
She nodded. "Robin Hood was a womanizer, you know."
"Not so. He totally had that thing for Marian and no one else."
"Right. In the Disney version where he's a fox."
I laughed. "Says the woman who just compared my dilemma with the Disney version of The Little Mermaid! Need I remind you of the original? Where the mermaid turns into sea foam at the end because she doesn't get the guy?"
Miriam waved her hands in the air, clearing all her previous statements. "Okay, new plan. Let's stop comparing real life to Disney movies. That seems to be confusing. Why don't I just have Bret ask him what's up?"
I dropped my head down on the desk. "Oh, god, no, that's the worst thing I could possibly do is have someone else ask about him for me."
"No, they're friends! It'll be totally cool! He can slip it in so that it sounds like they're just having a normal conversation about Transformers or something."
I picked my head up again. "Alec and Bret talk about Transformers?"
"They went to the midnight release."
I nodded. "I guess that's understandable."
"They watched it as kids and stuff."
I considered the idea. Not the Transformers thing, but letting Bret talk to Alec for me. I had to admit there was a certain appeal to not having to confront Alec about having a girlfriend myself. Especially when I wasn't entirely sure if I actually wanted to be his girlfriend or anything.
"Okay, let him do the talking, that's fine."
Miriam clapped. "Would you like a banana?" she asked, holding her abused banana out to me.
** ** **
The thing is, I had no idea when Miriam intended to have Bret talk to Alec. Therefore, the waiting proved to be quite agonizing. Part of me vainly hoped that I would get a phone call from Miriam that very evening with the details of the boys' discussion, but no such luck. My mind continued to wander the hallways of Disney-esque fantasy thinking of what the hell could be up with the whole Alec having a girlfriend thing. Even though I did everything I could think of in my power to shut my brain up, including watching reality TV with my mom, I was still hopelessly addicted to letting myself dissolve in a pit of useless worrying.
I tried to spin my gift poi to distract myself. Unfortunately, I didn't know very many tricks, and all I could think about while I spun was hoping Alec could teach me more the next time we hung out.
"This is ridiculous," I said to myself. Because it had gotten that ridiculous, ridiculous enough for me to comment to myself on the ridiculous level.
I picked up the phone to call Miriam. It rang three times. Her mom answered it. "Can I talk to Miriam?" I asked. Her mom said yes. I waited about forty five more seconds, then Miriam was on the phone with me.
"Did they talk yet?"
I swear I could hear her roll her eyes. "Mads, it hasn't even been one day. Give it time."
"I don't want to give it time. I'm supposed to meet him for Halloween in three days! How can I do that if I don't know what capacity I'm meeting him in?"
"What do you mean?"
"Am I a potential girlfriend, or just a friend? The sort of friend you leave notes and makes gifts for? Maybe this is the way he deals with all of his pals! I don't even know!"
She sighed. "You're overreacting. Just take a nice, warm bath, think of something happy, and I'll talk to you tomorrow. Or you could always go back over there and try talking to him again."
"Good night, Madeline!"
"Good night, Miriam."
I waited a few moments for her to hang up. She did.
** ** **