35946 / 43827 words. 82% done!
Do you know what it's like to have something stuck in your head, and not be able to think about anything else? When you can't focus on anything put in front of you, be it school work, food, even something you'd normally enjoy, like hanging out with friends? I've done this with all sorts of things. Like with a book I'm reading, where I just want to know what's going to happen next but I have to put it away because home room is over and it's time to go to math. I've done it with TV shows that leave you hanging right at the end, and you have to wait a week to see what happens next. I've done it with computer games, where I'll be playing them and then I have to turn them off, go to bed, and wait until the next day to continue my adventure. Hell, I've even done it with cake, cake so amazingly fantastically delicious that all I wanted more than anything else in the world was to have another piece.
But it's never been as bad as it was waiting to find out if Bret had talked to Alec or not.
And I'll tell you, I felt like a complete moron letting it get to me that way. I liked to think I was the type of girl that didn't get all hung up over guys. (Well, except for Wake, but that was different. I was used to being hung up on Wake.) I liked to think I was above such things, that I had some sort of super power that made me superior, immune to the wiles of the opposite sex. I liked to think that I was unshakable.
I tried really, really hard not to bug Miriam about it, too, because I knew how annoying it could get to be constantly asked the status of something you weren't in control of. But I still ended up sending her inquisitive glances in the halls during every passing period. Raised eyebrows that asked, "Anything? News?" And I tried not to let my stomach drop when she shook her head that nothing had changed.
Logically, I knew that there wasn't any way for Bret to talk to Alec while we were in school, because he went to a different school, and Bret wasn't one to cut classes just to go investigate the girlfriend situation of his friends. But maybe he and Miriam just hadn't had a chance to talk about it yet. Maybe Bret and Alec had talked, and he just hadn't told Miriam, it hadn't come up in casual conversation. I don't know why Miriam would keep me waiting in such anticipation when she could just ask Bret what was up, but I didn't want to push the issue, especially if I was totally off base there and Bret really didn't have any info yet.
Time dragged by during school like it was an anvil attached to the back of a turtle with a bad leg. Several times during class, I felt the overwhelming urge to just get up, leave my classroom and find Bret to ask him myself. I didn't, because I'm stronger than that. I'm unshakable, remember?
I could barely get my homework done, because all of my mental power was focused on waiting for the phone to ring, for Miriam to deliver unto me good news. Or any news.
By the Friday before Halloween, I felt I might literally implode if I didn't find anything out. I was supposed to meet Alec tomorrow, in a supposedly romantic night of handing out candy to kids with epic sugar highs. But how could I do that if I didn't even know my status? I couldn't, that's how. If Bret hadn't figured anything out, my plan was to skip, telling Alec I'd been invited to another party and I'm really sorry we couldn't hang out, but I'd see him at poi spinning on Sunday. It seemed a solid plan.
So when Miriam slipped me a note that said, "They talked! More info at lunch", I wanted to just skip out on world history and lock Miriam in the bathroom so she could tell me everything.
There were still two more periods until lunch. How the hell could one clock tick so slowly?? It was truly maddening. I did everything in my power I could think of to try to distract myself from the news I was so desperate to hear. I doodled mindlessly in my textbooks. I practiced cursive with my left hand. I took out old homework papers and practiced folding them into various configurations, in preparation for any future notes I may write to Miriam or Colleen. I organized the contact list in my cell phone, clearing out names I never called anymore, combining any duplicates and updating numbers that had changed (all the while keeping my phone hidden discreetly under my desk, of course). I tried reading ahead in my history book, even, but I couldn't concentrate on any of the words. They just blurred together without any regard whatsoever for my feelings.
Finally, finally finally finally finally, the bell rang for lunch. I accidentally let out a little screech of joy, and found myself met with some awkward stares from various random classmates. I tried not to let myself feel like the biggest freak of all time as I made my way to the cafeteria as quickly as I could, short of shoving random people out of the way in my haste to get there. I got temporarily stuck behind a kid with an extra mountainous backpack, and I couldn't get past him for a while. I nearly yanked the stupid pack off of him, but I kept my cool, taking deep, cleansing breaths until he finally turned a corner and headed down a different hall.
Miriam beat me to our table (Colleen was still sitting apart from us, since there had yet to be any attempt at reconciliation between her and Miriam). She didn't acknowledge my presence as I sat down with my tray, just continued munching on her cafeteria pizza. I waved at her, hoping to catch her attention. Maybe the dramatic feathered headpiece she wore today had blocked her vision, and she simply hadn't seen me.
Instead of your typical "hello," however, she said, "You know, this pizza tastes like dog spit slathered on cardboard, with some tomato paste squashed in the middle. And yet I eat it anyway, week after week." She shook her head, presumably in disbelief of her own poor taste in pizza.
"Miri," I said, snapping my fingers. "You can't sit there and talk about cafeteria pizza. You have to tell me what's going on with Alec."
She took another bite of pizza, chewing thoughtfully. Then she set the slice down, and looked up at me to meet my gaze. She swallowed. "Hi, Mads, how has your day been?"
"Aaaaaaauugh!" I screeched, slapping the table in my teenage angst. "My day has been an endless stream of curiosity and anxiety over what you have to say about Bret and Alec! So just flipping tell me so I can continue living without this constantly plaguing my thoughts!"
Miriam nodded. "Right. Okay. Here's the thing, though, I don't know how much you're going to like it."
My stomach dropped a little. I sent Miriam a Look to tell her to stop with the prefacing, just jump right in.
"Are you ready?"
"YES," I shouted.
"Okay. So here's the deal. It turns out Alec...does...technically sort of have a girlfriend." She rushed the last part, probably hoping the ripping off a band-aid effect would take place. If she did it fast, it would hurt less.
It didn't, really.
"How can he have a girlfriend? What sense does that make?"
Miriam held up a hand. "He really does like you, though!"
"So? He's going to go and flirt with me and be all nice and gift giving to me while he's got some other poor girl on the back burner?"
"It's not exactly like that exactly."
"You said 'exactly' twice."
"I mean, okay, yes, he has this girlfriend, but they're not really serious. It's like, they've been dating since elementary school or whatever, but they broke up a year ago, but then she came back and wanted to date him again, and he was like, maybe not, and she was like, but I've changed, and he was like, okay, let's go for one date, and that one date just happened to be the time you showed up on his doorstep."
I thought about this. "So I was right. He was madly in love with some other girl who swooped back into his life at precisely the wrong moment."
Miriam shrugged. "Kinda, yeah. But Bret says he really, really likes you, he's just confused about her trying to get back together and stuff, but he still wants you to come over for Halloween."
"What's her name?" I asked.
"I don't know."
I sighed. "Well, that's just fantastic. How can I dramatically ask him, 'So, what's the deal with so and so' if I don't have a name to replace the so and so with?"
"I guess you'll have to come up with another way to ask? A way that doesn't involve a name?"
I stared down at my own slice of cardboard and dog spit pizza, trying to ignore my churning, swooping stomach and will myself to eat it.
"What would you do if you were me, Miriam? Would you go to hang out with Alec? Or would you just skip it and go to Wake's party?"
"Well, I don't know if I'm the one to ask, since in real life I'm actually going to Wake's party."
"Right, but if you were me."
She nodded, took another contemplative bite of "pizza", and chewed. When the masticated food had traveled down her throat, she opened her mouth again. "Okay. If I were you, I would just suck it up and go hang out with him on Halloween, and get the whole story."
I sighed. I'd kind of been hoping she'd go with the skipping out option, as it seemed so much easier and less stressful.
"Right, but what if the whole story ends up being that they had such a fantastic date that they're getting back together, but he still wants to be friends with me? And then my whole Halloween is ruined, when I could have been having this lovely time pretending Wake's not a huge jerk and I've actually got friends other than you at his party?"
Miriam squinted at me, analyzing my logic for the logical part. "Go hang out with Alec. And anyway, I thought you didn't even know if you wanted to be his girlfriend or not."
"Well, now that the position may not be up for grabs, it's a little more desirable, you know?"
"That's horrible, Mads," Miriam said, working on the crust of the pizza now.
"Not really. I mean, I guess it just took a little shove for me to realize he's exactly the sort of guy I want to be with, you know?"
She nodded. "Yeah, that makes sense. Like when Bret wasn't sure if he was going to ask me or Katy Reynolds to the big Jr. High graduation dance, and then I gave him that skull brooch and he ended up picking me."
"Exactly," I nodded. "Only with less skulls."
"So anyway I still vote hanging with Alec."
I grumbled a little bit. "What will you do if I don't?"
"I will take pictures of your tattoo and put them all over the school with your phone number and a note saying, 'For a good time, call.'"
"You are evil."
She shrugged, gesturing to her outfit of all black. "It's my nature."
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