You didn't expect to see her until tonight, but she's here in front of you now, as you exit the school building. You avoid eye contact with her and attempt to walk around her, but she puts out an arm to stop you, looking at you pleadingly.
"Can we talk?" she asks you, hesitant.
"Oh, so NOW you want to talk," you answer, your tone bitter. "Nice timing, Marissa," you continue sarcastically.
She bites her lip. She knows she has no right to expect anything from you.
"So, talk," you say, gesturing for her to speak.
Her eyes widen slightly. She wasn't expecting that, you realise. Maybe she'd thought you'd do all the talking.
"Well? Come on, Marissa. You asked to talk. Surely you have something to say? You sure as hell did last time we "talked"," you prompt.
She looks down. That one got to her, you can tell, even if you can't read her as easily as you used to.
"I'm sorry," she says, barely audible. "You don't understand, it..."
You cut her off sharply. "Understand? I understood perfectly clearly! Every.Single.Word," you emphasise. "And you know, you'd think I would have been angry, but I wasn't. I was just hurt. I mean, I got 6 months of nothing, and then that. And all that stuff before, I thought you meant it, and..." You stop. You're saying too much, being too honest with her. Last time you were honest with her got you nowhere.
"I meant it," she says.
You shake your head. "No you didn't."
"Okay, so maybe I didn't deal with it in the best way..."
"You think? You could have just been honest from the start, you know. Instead of all that bullshit, telling me it didn't matter when it obviously did."
"I really am sorry," she says.
"What makes you think it means anything now?"
"I want it to, I really do."
"Well, all I wanted was for you to talk to me, not act like I didn't exist. And then the one conversation we did have consisted of you ..."
This time she cuts you off. "I know, I know all of that, okay? And there's nothing I regret more than that."
"Doesn't matter now," you say.
"Matters to me," she replies.
You shrug your shoulders. "So? Give me one good reason why I should care about what matters to you."
"I want to make things better, Alex."
"Why? Why now?"
"I've left it too long already."
"Damn right you have. Now excuse me, I have to go," you say, shoving past her down the steps. You don't look back at her.
You sit in your car, your head spinning. You don't trust yourself to drive away just yet. Summer's going to kill you, you think suddenly, a humourless grin crossing your face for a second. You promised her you'd give Marissa a chance, and instead, there you were with all your anger and sarcastic responses. Too defensive, but she just grated on your nerves, and you couldn't stop yourself.
You pick up your phone, intending to call Summer, even if you do like your head being attached to your body. You're supposed to meet her soon anyway; you're going with her tonight. Maybe she can help you sort all of this mess in your head out.
The phone rings a few times, before she picks up.
"Alex, what the hell happened to giving her a chance!" Summer launches right into it. She must have spoken to Marissa already.
"You spoke to Marissa, huh?"
"Didn't need to, heard you for myself," she responds.
"You were listening to us?" you ask indignantly.
"Never mind, of course you were," you continue.
"What?" she replies. "I was just doing my duty as your best friend."
"Didn't realise eavesdropping was now a best friend duty, but okay," you reply.
"Anyway, I need to yell at you some more. What the hell were you thinking?"
"Could we discuss this somewhere not over the phone?" you ask.
"Of course, she replies, "See you in a minute."
You press the end call button without responding, knowing that Summer will also yell at you about never saying goodbye properly on the phone. You'd think she'd be used to it by now, but no, you still get complaining from her every time.
Pulling up outside her house ten minutes later, you see she's already waiting at the door for you. You get out of the car slowly, and walk up the driveway. As soon as you're within touching distance of her, she hits your arm.
"Oww," you exclaim. "Damn, Sum, there's no need to hit!"
"Again, what the hell were you thinking!"
"I was thinking...I was angry. And she was making me angrier, and then..."
"And then you forgot all about the part where you give her a chance to explain how she's feeling."
"Well, she wasn't exactly making a good job of it," you mutter.
"You didn't give her a chance to! Right, we are going to practice this conversation, and you're going to try again tonight."
"No way. We are not practicing this conversation. We're not actors in a play!"
"Certainly not one with a happy ending," Summer says darkly.
"Real people don't get happy endings," you say, walking past her into the house.
"Well no, not if they're as damn cynical as you are," she responds, following you into the house.
"Just being realistic," you shrug. "Play with fire and you get burnt. And listening to Marissa is definitely playing with fire."
"One day I'll get you to listen to me," she says.
"Doubt it, sweetie."
"Well you should listen to me about Marissa. I know stuff."
"Yeah, stuff about what colour's in this season."
"Are you calling me shallow?"
She hits you again.
"What, I'm not allowed to tell the truth now?" you say, slightly indignant. She grins at you.
"Anyway, back to the point," she says.
"There's a point now?"
"Yeah. We have two hours to teach you what to say to Marissa."
"I don't need teaching."
"Yeah you do," she says, grabbing your arm and dragging you towards her room. "Sit," she says when you get there, pushing you onto her bed.
"Right, I'm Marissa, except like a foot shorter," she says, standing in front of you. "Now what is the appropriate way to speak to me?"
"Summer, this is stupid."
"Wrong!" she exclaims. "That is not the appropriate way."
You sigh exasperatedly, knowing there's no way of getting out of this.
"Umm...maybe I apologise for earlier?" you ask.
"That's a good start. Let's hear your apology then."
"I'll deal with it later, Summer; you know planning ahead is no good."
"Yeah, I guess not," she gives in." But if you screw it up again, I am so kicking your ass."
"You mean if you could reach to, right?" you say teasingly.
"Right, that's it!" she says, launching herself at you and tickling your sides. You manage to keep a serious face for all of two seconds before breaking into giggles. She laughs at you, pulling away.
"Right, we need to get ready," she says.
"We have more than an hour," you say.
"Damn Alex, you're such a guy sometimes. Looking good is important."
"I always look good," you say, twirling to demonstrate.
No matter what, spending time with Summer always seems to make you feel better. All the anger from earlier has dissolved, and even though you're as nervous as hell about later, you're having fun right now.
"Thanks, Summer," you say.
"For what? Teaching you about fashion?"
"Um, no. For making me feel better. Well, after hitting me that is."
"Oh my god, you can be nice," she says, her expression one of fake shock.
"But, you're welcome," she says, hugging you quickly.
"Right, which shoes?" she says, holding two pairs up that look pretty much the same to you.
"They're the same," you say, confused.
"No, they're not" she says," See, this strap is different, 'cause...oh, never mind," she says, seeing your blank expression.
"Anyway, what are you wearing?" she then asks.
"This," you say, gesturing at your current outfit.
"But you wore that to school!"
"Do we have to have this conversation every time we go out?"
"Yes. Maybe if I say it enough times you'll give in. Thank god we don't have to wear a uniform anymore; you'd probably be going around dressed in that after school."
"Ugh, no way," you say. "That thing was vile. Skirts and in brown as well. And what was with the tie? Green and yellow stripes on brown? Ew."(A/N, yes, my actual old school uniform.)
"Thank god for sixth form," she says. "Well, you know, apart from all the work."
"At least change your shirt," she says, "I'm sure I've got some of yours here somewhere." She pushes aside some of her clothes, before throwing you a shirt that you've been looking for. You pull off the one you're wearing, and shove it into your bag.
Summer looks highly offended. "Have I taught you nothing? Fold it up!"
You sigh, pulling it back out of your bag, fold it up and return it to its previous position between your Spanish and psychology textbooks.
Summer then throws a make up bag at you. "Reapply," she says. Shaking your head slightly at her, you move towards the mirror.
You then sit around waiting for her to finish getting ready.
"I'm done," she finally announces, 15 minutes after you were due to leave. "You want to drive or shall I? Actually, you can. I'm not letting you get drunk."
"Why not? I mean, come on, I'm finally legal."
"Drink makes you talk without thinking...well, more than usual I mean."
"Fine," you say, grabbing your car keys from their position on Summer's bed before bending down to lace up your shoe.
"Hurry up, we're late," says Summer.
"And who's fault is that?" you grumble, standing back up and leaving the room.
You're supposed to pick Seth up on the way. He's Summer's cousin, but you really don't know him all that well. You see him around school sometimes, but the only subject he takes there is art, so he's not there all that much. Stopping outside his house, Summer phones him, ringing off before he can answer. He comes out of the door still buttoning his shirt up, and slides into the back seat out of breath.
"Last minute getting ready again?" says Summer.
"You know me, I don't move until absolutely necessary."
"Lazy bastard," Summer says.
"Yeah, I know, it's one of my best qualities." he says.
You pull up to the car park, parking haphazardly as usual, and get out of the car, your nervousness becoming prominent again.
Summer places a hand on your arm. "It's gonna be fine," she says.
You smile weakly at her, and walk inside, really wishing you could just get a drink now. Damn Summer and her ideas. You look around, your eyes adjusting to the lower light level, but you can't see Marissa just yet. You tap your foot nervously, impatient for this night to be over with.
"Summer?" you ask, dragging her name out, making it clear you're about to ask her something.
"No, I'm not driving you home so you can drink," she says, not even turning to look at you.
"No," she says firmly.
"Fine," you say, ordering a coke from the bar instead, to give you something to do with your shaking hands. The stage lights up more and you know that she'll appear any second. You resist the urge to fade into the background like you've been doing, and instead sit down next to Summer. Seth is laughing at something she just said, but you don't hear anything. The only thing you're focused on now is her, as she steps into the light.
You've been thinking about Alex ever since your conversation earlier today. You've considered just giving up on her, but deep down you know that's not really an option. She's tearing you apart at the moment, but you're determined to fix what you screwed up so long ago. You've just stepped onto the stage, the familiar nerves overtaking you for a moment. You look towards Summer's usual spot and are surprised to see Alex sitting there with her.
You take the microphone in your left hand, keeping eye contact with her all the time. She's the one to break the gaze, looking down into her glass, but you don't stop looking at her.
You look around the room.
"Before I start, I'd like to say something about this next song. It's...ugh..." your voice cracks slightly. "It's for someone I used to know. I don't deserve to be forgiven but I'd like to try again." You look back to her, meeting her eyes again, and this time she smiles weakly at you. Playing your opening chords, everything fades away but her, and the words that have been in your head ever since you wrote this song.
When it's over you look at her again, but this time she won't meet your eyes, and her face is contemplative. You poured everything you have into that song, but you know there's still no guarantee that it will be enough for her.
"That one was for everything I should have said, and all the things I wish I'd never said," you say, shocked at how much you're opening up in front of all these people.
A while later, your performance is coming to an end, and you thank people for coming before leaving the stage and heading towards Summer. You usually talk to her afterwards, but this time it's different. Alex is with her, and you have no idea what's going to happen next.
"Hey Summer," you say, sliding into the seat opposite her. You then look at Alex. "Hi," you say nervously.
She smiles slightly...well, you think that's the expression she intended, but it looks more like a grimace right now. "Hi," she responds softly.
"Me and Seth here are going to get drinks," Summer says, standing up. She never was one for the subtle.
"Sorry about earlier," you say.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have gotten angry," she says, looking down at her hands, her fingertips tracing patterns on the table.
"No, you had every right to be," you say.
"Your song earlier...it was...beautiful," she says hesitantly.
"No it wasn't," you say immediately. You honestly don't think that it is. "It's full of ugly things. It could never be beautiful." It is, filled with ugliness that is...it's filled with everything you hate about yourself, everything that you did wrong.
"Did you mean it?" she asks suddenly.
"Well, um, thanks for your honesty."
"About time, huh?" you say, not really knowing how else to respond.
She smiles, genuinely this time. "Yeah, about time," she repeats.
"Can we try again?" you ask.
"I don't trust you," she says.
"I deserve that."
"But, we can try again. Just don't think it's going to be easy."
"I know it's not. Thank you," you say, smiling a little for what feels like the first time in weeks.
She just nods.
"I have to go," you say. "But I'll see you in school tomorrow?"
"Yeah, okay," she agrees. You can see she's still unsure about this whole "trying again" thing that you've got going, but hopefully you can change her mind. You know you still haven't properly addressed the issue here, and that when you do, it's probably going to lead to an argument. That's the part you're really not looking forward to.
You place a hand lightly on her shoulder as you leave, a small way of showing affection without being too full on straight away. You head to the bar, where Seth and Summer both remain, appearing to be highly amused by something.
"How'd it go?" asks Summer, as soon as you get close enough to hear her.
You smile. "Really good," you say.
She smiles too. "That's great! Talk to you later about it?"
"Yeah," you say, smiling at her once again before hugging her and turning to leave.
"Wait a sec, Marissa, I'll come with you," says Seth, following you outside.
"So, it went well, huh? Do I get details? You know how much I love gossip," he says excitedly, all in one breath.
"So well," you say, just as excited as he is. "We're talking again, and even that's more than I expected. so it's all great."
"Well I'm happy for you. Plus you can finally stop moping over her. I need a favour..." he then says.
"Art project," he confirms.
"Well as long as I don't have to pose nude," you say.
"As much fun as that sounds, no," he says. "Just posing will do, thanks."
"Sure," you say. "When do you need me?"
"After school tomorrow would be good," he replies.
"Okay," you agree.
"Unless you want to make plans with Alex," he says, slightly teasingly.
"Seth, she only just agreed to talk to me again; I think you're moving a bit far ahead there."
"Maybe a little, but you just be your usual charming self and I'm sure she'll change her mind soon."
"Wow, you admitted someone other than yourself is charming," you say.
"Well, of course, not as charming as me, because, hello, that's like impossible," he says, while making one of the campest gestures you've ever seen.
"So, when are you going to come out of the closet?" you tease.
He just rolls his eyes. "You know I'm all about the ladies. They loooove me. It must be because of my amazing looks, my incredible sense of humour..."
"And your modesty, right?"
"That too," he agrees.
You laugh at him, pushing yourself off the wall where you've been leaning while talking to him, and pull him towards your car.
"I've decided to be nice and not make you walk," you say.
Instead of getting in the car, Seth sprawls across the bonnet, striking a model's pose.
"Seth, last time you did that, someone ran you over!"
"Yeah, I can't believe I'm still friends with that girl," he says, shaking his head. "She almost broke my neck."
"She gave you plenty of warnings."
"Well I didn't expect her to actually carry all the threats out! Sethie is too pretty to be run over."
"Yeah, ok, Seth. Now get in the car, before you get run over by another friend."
He jumps off the bonnet hurriedly, and gets in the car beside you.
Marissa just left with Seth, and you're watching Summer as she comes back with drinks.
"Marissa said it went well?" she asks questioningly.
"Yeah," you say, taking a sip of your drink.
"Care to elaborate?"
"She didn't tell you?"
"Well, we're trying again to be friends."
Summer smiles, hugging you unexpectedly, and then says, "That's great!"
"Yeah, I guess," you say, a little unsurely.
"It'll be fine," she says reassuringly.
"I hope so," you reply.
The next day at school, you don't see her in the morning. You overslept in the morning and so got to school late. At break time you head for the common room, wondering if she'll be there. You throw your bag onto a chair, climbing over the back of it to avoid everyone else's stuff that is scattered around the area. You've been sat there for a few minutes when she walks in, looking slightly stressed over something. She sits down opposite, saying hi to you as she does so.
"You okay?" you ask.
"Business studies coursework is stressing me out, but apart from that, I'm good," she responds, looking up from the folder in her hands to smile at you.
"How about you?" she asks.
"I'm good," you tell her. "No more coursework left for me," you say.
"Lucky bitch," she mutters, looking back at the work in front of her before scribbling some notes on a fresh piece of paper.
"I know, it's kind of moving fast and everything, but can we, um, get coffee or something after school," she asks. "I won't keep you long, Seth needs me to pose for his art project later...so..." she stops talking, looking at you nervously.
"Sure," you reply, not wanting to hurt her feelings.
"Great," she says, smiling, her relief obvious. The bell rings then, and you swing your bag over your shoulder, heading for Spanish. "See you at lunch, maybe," you say, as you leave. She nods, becoming engrossed in her coursework once again as you walk out of the door.
As you get outside, you smile happily. So far so good.