What happens now ?
I sat in front of my mirror, staring at eyes that seemed so tired, skin that was so pale and lips that had, as of late, been perpetually turned down at the corners in a frown. I sat up a little straighter, trying to remove the droop from my shoulders, but it didn't help. Nothing seemed to help.
All the excitement was over, all the drama finished. The election had been held and lost, by me. Now I had no idea what to do with myself.
I wasn't really that upset over losing. I thought I would have been devastated, but oddly enough, it seemed it was losing to Frannie that had me tied in knots. Since that hadn't happened, I was okay.
Ashleigh would make a good president and I would be by her side, offering her whatever support she needed. Because that was what best friends did for each other.
I felt like I might have forgotten that over the last few weeks. Somehow, someway the election had gotten twisted for me, rearranged in my mind, so that instead of it being about becoming the true president of ZBZ, it became about beating Frannie.
The sorority deserved more than that. The girls deserved better from their president. It should never have been about anything other than being the best leader and role model I could be.
By the end of the whole mess, it had gotten dirty. I had gotten dirty. I let myself sink to Frannie's level. If that was what it meant to win, I no longer wanted to. That was that. I didn't like the person I let her turn me into.
Hating Frannie was one thing, I was used to that. It was normal. I could not be someone that hated themselves. If I couldn't look at myself in the mirror and feel proud of my actions, good about what I was doing, what was the point ?
I told myself, in the thick of everything, when it got really bad, that the ends justified the means. Frannie hadn't changed. Not one thing about her was any different than it had been before. I assured myself over and over that that was the whole point. I couldn't let Frannie drag the house down again. I couldn't let her ruin what we had built here.
Now she wouldn't have the chance. So I felt good about how everything turned out.
Besides, not being the president would give more ' me ' time. Something I was drastically lacking in lately. I could concentrate on my studies, decide what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life. After all, I didn't intent on being in college for the rest of my life. And I would have more time to spend with Max. Hell, I might even think about getting a part time job. Why not ? I was free. I could do anything I wanted. Freedom was a wonderful thing.
Yes, losing the election for the presidency of CRU's chapter of the Zeta Beta Zeta sorority was a good thing.
I sighed and my shoulders took on their familiar droop again.
If I couldn't make myself believe any of that, how could I possibly convince everyone else ?
I thought about calling Max. I needed some serious cheering up. But even as I reached for my phone. I knew I didn't want to call Max. He was a great guy and had surprised me more often than not. I loved spending time with him. It was even possible that I was developing some genuine feelings for him. And I wanted that. I wanted a fresh start. I wanted uncomplicated, easy.
It seemed like my entire life had been nothing but complicated for over a year now. Nothing was easy. Everything became a huge crisis. I was so very, very tired of drama.
But Max was not really the go-to-guy for cheering people up. It wasn't that I never laughed when I was with him, I did. I laughed at everyone of his jokes that I understood, anyway. He just didn't make jokes that often. He was far too serious for my current condition.
If I called him now, I knew what he would do. First he would have no idea of how to help me. He would stand there with his hands in his pockets, feeling and looking awkward. I so didn't need awkward right now.
But still it was with a fair amount of guilt that I dialed the person I really wanted to be with at the moment. I should want to be with Max, not him
Besides, I was using him again. I knew that. I felt terrible about it. I really did. But somehow, that didn't change my mind. I didn't make me hang up when his smooth, light tone said , " Hello," as if he had been expecting my call all evening.
" I was wondering if you'd like to see a movie, or go grab a drink, or anything that would get me out of this house that suddenly seems to have all its oxygen." I answered.
" Wow, it went that badly ? " He asked, suddenly concerned, giving me his full attention. " Am I to assume that Frannie is the new president of ZBZ ?"
" No, she isn't. Its a long story. Rescue me and I'll tell you everything."
" Now, that's an offer I can not refuse. Dobbler's ? You sound like you could use a drink." I could almost hear the smile in his voice.
" No, I don't want to run into anyone from the house. The last thing I want is hear all those empty condolences." I answered immediately.
" Okay, no Dobbler's. I have just the place. Come get me. I know your aversion to riding in my jeep."
I was laughing already. This was a good idea. It was a good plan. An evening with Cappie. An uncomplicated, drama-free, evening with someone who, at one time, had been one of my best friend. I realized suddenly how much I had missed him.
" I'll be there in ten minutes." I told him.
" My, we are eager, aren't we ?" He laughed.
" Just get your ass dressed. I know very well you are sitting in your room in your boxers right now playing video games."
He laughed louder this time, the sound music to my ears. " My God, Woman, that is some freaking sixth sense you have, or are you spying on me ? Has all the stress turned you into some kind of obsessed stalker ? Should I be worried ?"
I laughed with him. " No, Rusty told me that's how you've been spending most of your time lately. I guessed about the boxers. I suppose I just know you too well."
" You always did. I'll be ready when you get here."
" Okay. See you in a few."
I hung up with a smile on my face, even as I fought now the guilt I felt at feeling so excited to spend the evening with him.
Then I reminded myself that Max was not Evan. Max would understand that I needed to hang with my friend tonight. He wouldn't read more into than there was. Maybe I could keep Max from ever finding out about my past with Cappie. I could have my friend back. I hadn't even known how badly I wanted that. Just the thought of having Cappie back in my life made me nearly giddy.
There was no choice now. I needed Cappie back. I needed my friend back. I had to make sure Max never found out that we dated. After his reaction to finding out about Evan, I knew I couldn't let him know. He might pretend that he was okay with me spending time with Cappie, but there would always be that question in the back of his mind. I didn't want him to question anything.
I wanted Max. I liked him, maybe even more than that. It was too early to tell. But the potential was there.
I stood and serious thought about changing my clothes. My jeans were a little worn and Cappie had seen my pink ZBZ hoodie so many times it was scary. But if I changed then I was making the evening more than it was. I wouldn't change if I was going to meet Rusty or Ashleigh. So instead, I ran my fingers through my hair and grabbed my keys as I went out the door.
Cappie hadn't gone back to playing his game and forgotten I was on my way. That was what I expected when I pulled up in front of the huge, falling down, white house. I expected that I was going to have sit and wait for him to get dressed. But to my shock and amusement, he was sitting on the steps to the porch, looking clean and fresh and wonderful in his black t-shirt with the blue plaid button down over it. I always loved the way he looked in blue. It made his eyes pop, not that they needed any help. But he looked great and I instantly regretted not changing myself.
He bounced over to the passenger side and got in before I could even get the car into park.
" Okay, so I figure we have a few choices here." He began. "First, we could grab a movie. I'd even be willing to sit through whatever sort of torture the newest chick flick has in store. It is after all, all about you tonight. Or we could get a pizza. Or we could head over to that little diner we used to go to all the time, the one with the mystery meat special. Or we could go shoot some pool. You pick."
He counted off my choices on his fingers as he spoke and I found myself watching his hands instead of really listening to what he was saying. He had beautiful hands. So strong and masculine. His fingers were long and thin and perfect. I suddenly realized that I was remembering how those fingers used to make me feel, the things he could do with those hands.
I felt the blush rising in my checks and I cleared my throat when I noticed he had stopped talking and we staring at me like I'd just grown a second head.
" Case, you okay ?" he finally asked.
" Yeah," I shook off the fog invading my brain. " I'm good. Pool sounds good."
" Okay then. Pool it is." He smiled.
" So they all voted for Ashleigh even though she wasn't even running ?" he asked as he downed the last remnants of his beer.
" Yeah. They got tried of Frannie and I fighting over them apparently." I sighed, feeling the rise and fall of my shoulders as I did. I was fiddling with the label on my bottle, not really drinking it. Cappie was on his second.
The Lite and Easy was uncrowded and peaceful a fact for which I was extremely grateful. We had been sitting at a table directly beside the pool table just talking for nearly an hour and it was the best hour I had spent in months. I felt relaxed, at ease. It was wonderful after so many weeks of stress and tension.
" Are you okay with Ashleigh taking your office like that ?" He continued, reaching out to touch my hand. " I know what being president meant to you."
" Actually, yeah, I am okay with it. As long as I didn't lose to Frannie. I was considering leaving the house if she won. But now, I can help Ashleigh as much as she needs me and still have lots of free time. This is good for me." I stuck my chin out, trying to put as much feeling into the words as I could.
He laughed as he signaled the waitress for another beer. " That was quite possibly the biggest line of bullshit I've ever heard. Did you actually practice that in a mirror ?"
I dropped my head, letting my hair fall forward so I could use it as a curtain to hide my face. " I thought it sounded pretty convincing." I muttered, dejectedly.
He reached for my hand again. " Oh, it did and if it were anyone but me or maybe Ashleigh, they would have believed every word. We just know you better than that."
I spied him from under my veil of hair and gave him a smile. " I'll get over it." I said truthfully. " It hurts, but I did it to myself. I let myself sink to Frannie's level. I lost the election because of it. But I am happy for Ash. She'll make a great president."
" Promise me something." He said, letting go of my hand and taking the beer that the waitress had just sat down." Promise me you won't get all 'Casey' and ruin this for Ashleigh. I mean I like Ash, but you love her and you'll just end up hating yourself if you aren't as support to her as you can be."
I jerked my head up and looked at him. I hated that he knew me that well. I was just about to argue with him, just for the sake of arguing, because he was right, but I stopped myself.
" Okay. You're right. I would hate myself if I acted anyway but supportive towards her."
" I know." He smiled, taking my hand once again. I wished he would just keep holding it. I liked the feel of his much larger hand covering mine. It was reassuring and comforting. " You will find any excuse you can to beat yourself up."
" I rarely need to look for an excuse." I mumbled.
" That's not true. You are a good person." He squeezed my hand to emphasize his point. " I wish you could believe that, too. The rest of us that know you, we already see it. Why can't you ?"
I tried to hide my smile, but he caught me and smiled back until I was helpless to resist it any longer, and it took over my face.
" Okay, enough of this." He stated, standing. " It's time I kicked your butt."
" Excuse me ?" I asked. I had completely forgotten where we were or why until he inclined his head towards the pool table beside us. "Oh, right, like you even have a chance."
" Let's put some stakes on this, huh ? It's no fun playing when there ain't something on the line, right ?"
I stumbled and he blanched as if he didn't mean for the words to come out, but they did without his permission. The exact same words he had spoken to me at the beginning of the year.
We were both instantly reminded of the last time we had found ourselves alone at this very bar, standing against the exact same pool table. It was the night I went home with him, the night I cheated on Evan out of revenge. Maybe pool hadn't been such a good idea after all.
" I'm sorry." He mumbled. " I didn't mean to say it. It just kinda came out."
I chuckled as I used the tiny piece of blue chalk to cue my stick. " It's okay. How about we just say that the loser has to pay the tab ?"
He nodded. " Okay. That sounds fair."
I smiled. " I don't know about fair, since I was the one that invited you out and you are going to have to pay for everything."
I felt him move up behind me as I lined up my first shot. " My, we are awfully confident."
I nodded as I let the cue slide between my fingers. The sound of the balls hitting together was welcomed and reassuring. " Of course I am. " When I straighten up to eye the table, I realized exactly how close he was to me and it unnerved me for a moment. He was so close I could feel him brush against my back, smell his cologne. In other words, he was far too close for my comfort.
Apparently he hadn't realized it either, because as soon as I stood, he backed off, not far, but enough to put some space between us. He cleared his throat uncomfortably. "So, you and Max ? How's that going ?"
I shrugged as I leaned over the table again. " It's going okay. I like him. He's such a sweet guy."
His voice dropped. " I'm happy for you. You deserve a sweet guy." The sincerity in his tone caught me off guard. I was expecting some smart ass comment. I was expecting him to act much more like Cappie that he was.
" That's it ?" I asked, turning to face him. " No comments about how I could do better ? No insults ? No biting remarks ?"
He shrugged this time. " Nope. As long as he's a decent guy and not Evan, I'm okay with it."
" Really ?"
He nodded. " Yes, really."
My eyes widened in shock. " Okay then. Thank you. I really appreciate that."
" Not a problem. But I wasn't aware that my approval or disapproval really meant that much to you." He joked.
" Actually, for some reason, it really does."
" Well for the record, you have my approval." He told me, with the least bit of hesitation.
" Well, then, for the record, thank you. "
" That's what friends do. " He answered. " They support each other."
" And that's what we are now, right ? Friends ? Because that's what I really want." I told him honestly. " I miss having you in my life."
" I miss you, too, Case. So yeah, I think we can do friends."