I don't own anything, including the songs, the characters, or much else. Also, if your favorite pairing gets split up, don't hate me forever. They may get back together, who knows?
I cannot turn to see those eyes as apologies may rise.
I must be strong and stay and unbeliever
And love the sound of you walking away.
from "Walk Away," by Franz Ferdinand
September 9, 2002
Van Cott Residence Hall
E Wing second floor lounge
Two weeks into college and I was only starting to get the hang of it. I was watching TV in the community lounge. The dorm rooms weren't wired for cable, so even if they were big enough to fit a TV, taking advantage of the various channels available on-campus was reserved for lounges and for those in the newer halls. I had been trying to ignore Dorothy Ann and Carlos' escalating discussion and focus on the History Channel, which Arnold and I had been watching. Keesha and Ralphie, as well as Wanda and Tim, had tagged along, but it soon became nearly impossible to watch TV.
"Carlos, how are you supposed to get anything done while you're in that – that fraternity?" DA asked, fuming. "You'll be too busy doing keg stands and having toga parties to pass your classes!"
"Chill out, DA," Carlos sighed. "I can still,"
"And how do I know you won't hook up with some sorority bimbo at one of the mixers, huh?" She interrupted, further annoying Carlos, who hated being accused. I really wished I'd left the lounge earlier. This was becoming an all-out brawl. I looked at the entryway, which was being sort-of blocked by Ralphie and Keesha. Arnold was sitting next to me, and he squeezed my hand and looked at me imploringly. I was going to stay, then.
"I don't know; you could join one, maybe?" Carlos yelled.
"Recruitment isn't over yet," Wanda mused. She was rushing Delta Xi, the most non-blonde of the sororities, which says a lot, especially in California. "You can always come with me tomorrow."
"Are you out of your mind? DA stared at Wanda.
"No," Wanda retorted. "I'm just trying to tell you that it's not all toga parties and beer and sex."
"But there has to be enough of it, or he wouldn't be rushing!" DA pointed at Ralphie.
"Hey, leave me out of this." Ralphie threw his hands up in the air. "And I'm not just in it for the – what you said before." Keesha giggled, but I tried not to. I was closer to the tension.
"I'm just saying that I'm looking into it more," Carlos sighed. "They have a good philanthropy cause and,"
"YOU DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT PHILANTHROPY!" DA bellowed.
"What do you want me to say, that the 'bros' look all 'dope' and shit and I'm 'like totally stoked' to play beer pong?" Carlos rolled his eyes. "Give me some credit, DA."
"You could have told me first." DA pouted.
"You mean 'asked permission,'" Carlos corrected.
"Stop fighting!" Wanda cried. "JESUS! Why don't you come to this beach volleyball thing the sororities are doing tonight, DA?"
"Because I actually care about my education." DA retorted.
"Well then you won't be tempted. Put your swimsuit on." Wanda ordered and stormed toward the hallway, grabbing DA on the way out.
"I'm not a child, Wanda!" DA insisted, dragging her feet.
"Then stop acting like one!" Wanda retorted, continuing her march to the hall. She stopped just before she left the lounge and turned around. "Wanna come?" She asked Keesha and me.
"Do we have a choice?" Keesha asked.
"Are you going to go all psycho bitch on Ralphie?" Wanda inquired, holding DA's writhing arm. DA wasn't about to protest. "What about you, Phoebe? Are you going to go crazy and shoot Arnold in his sleep? I won't stand that shit." I shook my head.
"Are you crazy, Wanda?" I asked. "I wouldn't shoot Arnold!"
"GOOD GIRL." Wanda smiled. "Besides, that's a move I'd expect from an Italian," she looked at Ralphie.
"Enough with the racial slurs, Hoo Flung Dung!" Ralphie protested.
"Wanda is being like a militant Dr. Phil," Arnold mused, and did his best Wanda voice impression, "COME WITH ME BEFORE THE RIFTS IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP GROW WIDER!"
"Too many big words," Keesha corrected. "Try 'GET OVER HERE NOW OR HE DUMPS YOUR BITCH ASS!'"
"BE GLAD I'M NOT CHARGING YOU FOR THIS SHIT," Wanda called, dragging DA down the hall. "And one hint of psycho out of you, Keesha, and I won't let you stop at going to a cute little luau, you'll have to pledge before I leave your black ass alone. Same with you, Pheebs, only a whiter ass."
"I love Wanda," Ralphie sighed. "Platonically," he added after a second thought.
"Damn straight platonically," Keesha said playfully.
"Come on, let's head out," Carlos said, still irritated.
"Are you going, Arnold?" I asked. He'd mentioned that he was interested, but I couldn't see him actually joining. He'd want to spend time with me, after all.
"Yeah, why not give it a shot?" Arnold shrugged. "Besides, Wanda might make me try it if I don't go on my own." He kissed me on the forehead. "Are you sure it's okay?"
"It's your life!" I laughed. "Of course it's okay."
December 10, 2002
Van Cott Residence Hall
E Wing second floor lounge
"Ramen again?" I asked, looking up at Arnold, who'd entered the lounge.
"No," He replied shortly.
"What's wrong?" I wondered. Things had been different since Arnold had joined the fraternity. He'd been a lot busier, which was to be expected, but then again I never expected him to actually join any of the frats. But DA's shiny pledge pin was evidence that anything was possible. She'd joined the obligatory "cute nerdy girl" sorority on campus, Pi Delta Delta. They had the highest average GPA of any student group on campus, even the honors societies. Keesha and I had learned this by heart, because DA would tell us nearly every chance she got. I could hardly believe I was looking at the same anti-greek DA that I'd roomed with this entire semester, until our RA had come last week explaining that DA and Keesha were going to switch rooms so that DA and Wanda could room together. It was the first I'd ever heard of it, and I felt rather abandoned by DA's newfound love in the greek system. If it kept her and Carlos together – which they had been for five years – then I was willing to sacrifice. Keesha was unpacking her stuff at the moment, so I'd gone out to the lounge to watch some TV.
"Phoebe, we need to talk. It's about us." Arnold turned off the TV. "I just – I don't think our relationship is going anywhere."
"WHAT?" I asked, incredulous. "Arnold, I know it's hard because we're just getting used to college, but I didn't think it was – I mean, I don't think we're not going anywhere!"
"Look," Arnold said sadly. "It's just that I'm thinking that maybe we committed too young. I'm feeling like I need space – and not space that I feel comfortable having if you're waiting for me." I had started crying when Arnold had turned off the TV and it wasn't getting any better.
"Is it the fraternity? Are they making you," I started.
"Absolutely not!" Arnold protested. "It's just that while I'm going out and having fun, I've started to think that maybe I want to keep my options open."
"Then why am I not an option?" I countered.
"You are!" Arnold retorted just as quickly. "And I don't want to rule you out, but it's not fair to string you along, either."
"What if I want to wait?" I asked.
"I don't want you to," he said. "I want you to be happy."
"I'm happy with you." I replied.
"Please, Pheebs, don't make this any harder for me."
"Why should I make it any easier?" I asked, slightly angry. "What if I want to wait? I know I'm happy with you. I know I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Why is that so wrong?" I could hardly make out the words through my sobbing.
"This is the hardest thing I've ever done," Arnold said, looking me straight in the eye. His eyes were wet. "I really wish this wasn't how I feel, but I have to do this. I'm sorry, I really am."
I couldn't help but think how sorry he could be if he was still breaking up with me as I sobbed into the ugly old couch in the lounge.
"I hope you'll be okay – I don't even ask that you understand, just don't make yourself miserable over me. I'm not worth it." I heard Arnold say, but I couldn't look up at him, because it would make me cry even harder. I heard him leave, and sat there trying to gather my thoughts as much as I needed to in order to leave the lounge. After a minute, my crying slowed down. I went back to my room and opened the door. Keesha looked up from her CD collection and gasped.
"We need to go get ice cream. Now." I said shortly.
"What happened?" Keesha asked, grabbing her purse and mine.
"Arnold just dumped me." I said, my throat tight.
"No way!" She gasped. "What are we still doing here?"
We were almost run over by Wanda on the way in. "You guys – have you seen DA?" Wanda asked, hurriedly. "What happened, Phoebe?"
"Arnold broke up with me." I said flatly.
"That shit!" Wanda said angrily.
"Wanda, don't." I grabbed her arm.
"Oh," Wanda looked crestfallen, like she'd just realized that there was nothing she could do. "Well, I heard that DA and Carlos were at it again, and I had to come check up on her. Hey, speak of the devil!"
"I can't talk. I'm getting ice cream." DA said flatly. Her face was red.
"Oh no." Keesha said slowly.
"You too?" I said. DA's determined march halted.
"Phoebe, you're serious?" DA asked, hugging me sympathetically. "Why?"
"Apparently he needs to keep his options open, so he dumped me." I shrugged, half-heartedly hugging her back. "What about you? What happened?"
"Well I just found out that Carlos lied to me. He told one of his new 'pals,' who's dating my big, and –" DA started crying, much to her annoyance. "And he cheated on me last year." I let go of her and could feel my jaw drop. Carlos, the gorgeous flirty guy who'd actually remained true to his girlfriend had – had cheated? I couldn't believe it. I'd known Carlos for most of my life and it seemed so surreal, but I knew it had to be true if DA had dumped him over it. They loved each other and had been through all kinds of things. Only something big could tear them apart.
"NO WAY!" Wanda cried. "With who?"
DA sobbed. "Janet."
"Holy shit," Keesha sighed.
"Janet?" I exclaimed.
"He and I had just had a really big fight, and – he went to Arnold's and she was there, and they had a beer or some whiskey or something, and she seduced him. He said he was sorry and he didn't want it to hurt me, but why didn't he tell me?" DA was practically blubbering out the words. "If he had just told me…"
"That's it," Wanda said, escaping my grip and running down the hall.
"What is she doing?" I asked.
"RALPHIE!" I could hear her yelling.
"Fuck," Keesha bit her lip.
"Are you two okay?" DA asked.
"As far as I know," Keesha replied nervously.
"Have you fought lately?" I asked.
"No," Keesha answered. "I should go after her,"
"Don't," I said. "The worst that could happen is – really worse than waiting it out." I managed.
"Are you sure?" Keesha replied warily. I was about to answer, when Wanda turned the corner.
She was rushing down the hall with no sign of Ralphie. "You're safe, Keesha."
"What the hell did you do that for?" Keesha demanded, flying at Wanda. "You scared me half to death!"
"I just wanted to help!" Wanda tried. "You know I'm retarded about relationships!"
"YOU ALMOST GAVE ME A HERNIA!" Keesha yelled.
"I WANTED TO MAKE SURE WE GOT ENOUGH ICE CREAM!" Wanda screamed.
"Let's get out of here." I said softly.
"BOTH OF YOU, SHUT THE HELL UP AND LET'S GET SOME ICE CREAM." DA bellowed.
We grabbed some hoodies and went out to the toaster. Wanda climbed in shotgun without a word.
"Sad thing is," Wanda dug through the CD wallet, "I already have a mix for this."
"No man-hating," Keesha reached up to the wallet. "I made one too – it's better."
"Fine." Wanda let Keesha put in a CD. She didn't even insinuate that Keesha was being racist. Maybe because that didn't work with Keesha as well as it worked with Carlos or Ralphie – or even Arnold. I really didn't want to think about Arnold. I buckled
"Very progressive," DA remarked – Sinead O'Connor was playing.
"What did you expect, the Dixie Chicks?" Keesha smirked. "The Spice Girls?"
"The Spice Girls were the shit." Wanda countered.
"Sinead O'Connor is better for the estrogen." Keesha replied. "Turn that shit up."
We drove around Walkerville with the windows of the toaster down (it was about 45 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and we all had jackets on). We listened to the songs on full volume – scaring bikers by singing "You're So Vain" at the top of our lungs. We had enough angst in the van to fill twelve livejournals for a month; we needed the release.
"Aren't you glad I don't have all that emo crap on here?" Keesha asked loudly over "Just a Girl."
"YES." DA nodded fiercely. "The last thing I need now is to hear some guy crying over his girlfriend dumping him."
"Emo boys are kind of cute." Wanda mused.
"You know what would be worse? A romantic comedy." Keesha interrupted.
"Oh God." DA rolled her eyes. "We're at the part where our heroes fight and realize they can't live without each other – I swear I've been in that part for five years."
"I need Alanis Morissette." I added.
"I need Ben and Jerry." DA sighed. "Men suck."
"Yes they do." I replied.
"No innuendo, Wanda." Keesha said sharply.
"No big words!" Wanda cried. "I was going to say that I like it when-"
"WANDA." Keesha interrupted. "STOP."
"Oh, fine." Wanda was quiet.
April 19, 2003
Van Cott Residence Hall
I sat at the computer for an hour or two, surfing Facebook and "happening" upon the photo albums containing Arnold. We were supposed to be friends, but he wasn't talking to me. Keesha was out again, studying for her killer economics final. I thought living with Keesha would mean I'd see a lot more of Ralphie, but I was mistaken. Ralphie was busy with the fraternity stuff, as was Arnold, Carlos, and now Tim, who'd pledged to join the fraternity Arnold and Ralphie were in, Kappa Chi Nu. Tim didn't like feeling left behind and not noticed, and he'd certainly found a group of people who liked him in the fraternity. Although Wanda and DA had both invited me to go to "get-togethers" with them, I'd declined. Keesha had more classes than I did, but I was going to pick up some extra credits that summer. I sighed. More classes seemed to be the way to go. I looked at the other window I had open: study abroad opportunities. Maybe that's what I really needed: to get out of here. Maybe then Arnold would miss me or I'd meet some sweet foreign man who'd whisk me away. I didn't care, as long as I got my mind off Arnold. Thinking that made me realize I did care – as long as I ended up with Arnold. I wrote down a note to look into studying abroad. I did a calculation or two and figured I could take an entire semester to go somewhere exciting and hope that the distance would kill whatever remained of me that loved Arnold. I rubbed my temples and shut off my laptop. I grabbed my copy of Paradise Lost – a little too appropriate for my situation – and tried to keep reading.
The sound of the key in the lock jolted me, making me realize I had been sleeping. "Hey, Keesha," I said drowsily.
"Paradise Lost, huh?" Keesha smiled. "That's why I'm not majoring in English."
"I don't know how much more of this I can take," I said, rolling over so I was on my back.
"It's only two more weeks 'til the semester's over," She assured me.
"No, I mean the dorms and stuff," I corrected. "Can't we find an apartment or something?"
"I guess we could," Keesha mused. "I don't blame you."
"Don't feel bad for me. I'll get over it." I sounded unconvinced.
"I know," She sounded encouraging. "It could be worse."
"You sound like Ralphie." I laughed a little.
"He's rubbing off on me, I guess." Keesha put some dirty clothes in her hamper. "An apartment would be nice, though. It's better than eating at the cafeteria."
"Hunger strikes are better than the cafeteria." I added.
"Maybe something around a thousand a month – it can't be worse than here." Keesha thought aloud.
"And I can get a dog. A dog that won't run away." I continued.
"Okay, so a place with a fence." Keesha typed into her computer. "Maybe a place in a house?"
"Yeah, but no huge house with a ton of other students." It was too much like a sorority.
May 16, 2003
"The Flat" – Keesha and Phoebe's house
12 Austin Street
The housewarming barbecue was in full swing by the time Wanda burst onto the scene, drunk as a skunk.
"WHAT'S UP, BITCHES!" She cried, falling onto Arnold and kissing him on the cheek, as if she was trying to make the get-together any more awkward. Carlos and Dorothy Ann were barely on speaking terms. Ralphie and Keesha were steadily drifting apart, and had hardly acted like a couple for the past month.
"Whatever was there has just – left, I guess." Keesha had told me after Ralphie hardly gave her the time of day when he arrived. I sat on the back steps watching the barbecue until Wanda had tripped over me and fallen onto Arnold.
"Well, hey there!" Arnold laughed.
"You're sexy, did you know that?" Wanda continued.
"I've been told," Arnold replied, looking uneasily at me. I wanted to throw up. I hated Wanda, and because she was one of my best friends, I hated that I hated her.
"Hey, Pheebs, do you have a coffeemaker?" Ralphie asked me.
"Yeah, in the kitchen," I said absent-mindedly staring at Wanda running her hands up and down Arnold's more-built-than-you'd-expect-for-a-preppy-Jew chest. "Actually, I'll make it." I got up and ran into Ralphie, who was already in the kitchen.
"Is Keesha mad at me or something?" He asked as I reached for a filter.
"No," I replied. I hesitated to dabble in relationship drama, which was the last thing I needed.
"She hasn't said anything to you?" He continued. He sounded worried.
"Not really," I answered.
"Are you mad at me? You guys hardly talk to us any more." He tried to forcibly look me in the eye, but I dodged for some coffee grounds.
"There's hardly any time where I'm not interrupting anything." I answered, struggling with the lid to the grounds.
"It isn't how we thought it would be, is it?" Ralphie took the can from me and opened it.
"Thanks." I said, feeling stupidly helpless. I half-smiled at him, then quickly went back to making coffee. "I think I can handle it from here."
"I know," Ralphie said. "I just wanted to make sure everything's okay."
"OF COURSE EVERYTHING IS OKAY! I AM NOT GOING CRAZY!" I slammed down the can of grounds without its lid on. The entire kitchen was now covered in brown, fragrant coffee grounds. "Dammit." I said under my breath, squeezed my eyes shut, grabbed a rag, and slunk to the ground in one graceful, pathetic move.
"Do you have everything under control here?" Carlos asked before reaching the doorway. "Wow, Phoebe fought the coffee…" No one was laughing. "I'll go now." I "forgot" to ask if Wanda was okay.
Ralphie had managed to find a broom and was sweeping faster than I could gather grounds with the rag. Stupid Phoebe, I thought. Since when have I been so negative? Since when have I hated Wanda? I tried to go over how I felt about all this. First of all, I hate that Wanda is putting the moves on Arnold. Secondly, I hate that Arnold is letting her. Thirdly, I hope they don't have sex in my house. Okay, I also feel stupid about spilling the coffee. I really hope they don't have sex on my bed. In fact, I really hope they don't have sex. If they do, I hope Arnold gets herpes. I'd hope Wanda would get herpes, but that would mean Arnold had them, and I don't want to think about him GIVING them to WANDA because he'd have to GET them from somewhere and that means he's been having sex with all those sluts…
Okay, I had crossed the line into evil now. I threw the rag in the laundry room and ventured back outside. I found Keesha at the opposite side of the yard from Ralphie, as expected.
"Hey, Keesh, I think I'm going to lay down for a while. I don't feel so well." I said. "And Ralphie's worried about you – you should probably talk to him or something."
"Thanks, hon," Keesha hugged me. "I'm sorry about Wanda showing up loaded – next time will be different."
"Uh-huh," I acquiesced. "I'm going to bed."
Don't worry, it gets worse for our dear Phoebe. Reviews make you my hero.