Sorry for the long wait guys but Chapter 29 is finaly done. Big thanks, as always, to GoodniteGirl23 for helping me get here!
It was still relatively early but Vertigo was heaving with people in various states of intoxication. Normally Jordan would have been joining friends at the bar or settling near the stage to get ready to play but tonight he was focused on one task and one task only. He was there to talk to Jenny.
He had called her cell phone at least ten times that afternoon but had received no answer. Eventually he had settled on what he hoped was a tough sounding 'You tell anyone what you saw and I'll kill you' voicemail but feared it sounded more like a desperate plea for her silence. Pleading with her face to face was not likely to be any better but he had to do it. He had made a promise to Angela that Jenny would not tell anyone what she saw and he had every intention of keeping it. His eyes quickly scanned the room but he didn't see her anywhere. Rather than fight his way through the crowd he decided to ask the nearest passing waitress.
"Hey Sarah." he said, stopping the new waitress he'd only hours ago used as a way of teasing Shane.
Despite the fully loaded tray of drinks she was carrying, she stopped in her tracks and seemed more than happy to do so. She smiled broadly at him. "Hi Jordan, how was your head on Sunday? I was so hung over but it was a fun night, right? We should totally do it again sometime."
"Yeah sure," Jordan replied in a vague sort of way. He remembered talking to her at some point on Saturday night during the staff party he had crashed but his memories of that part of the night were a bit hazy and he couldn't work out why she was being so friendly all of a sudden. He decided it was best to forgo small talk and just get right to the point. "Is Jenny working tonight?"
"She's on her break. I think she went out back for a cigarette. Why? You want a beer? Take a seat and I'll bring one over."
Sarah's smile seemed to stretch even more as she used the hand that wasn't holding the tray of drinks aloft to twirl her hair while she cocked her hip just so. Her efforts were wasted though. Without offering so much as a quick 'thanks for the information', Jordan stepped around her and started walking towards the back of the room. He ignored the sign saying 'Staff Only' and pushed open a door that led past Mitch's office and out to a small back yard where the bar received its deliveries. It didn't take long to spot Jenny, perched precariously on some old beer crates and taking the last drag of her cigarette.
"Next time I ask you for one of these, say no." She said, seemingly unsurprised to see him appear in front of her. "It was hard enough quitting the first time and now I've got to do it all over again."
"Why haven't you answered your phone?" he growled rather than comment on her taking smoking up again.
"I lost my cell. That's why I was at the store earlier. I was going to ask if you've seen it."
"Oh," he replied. The simplicity of her answer and her calm tone sort of took the wind out of his sails. "No, haven't seen it."
"Crap. I hope it turns up soon because I really can't afford a new one right now. " She didn't even want to think about who could be accessing her Facebook and email accounts.
Jenny ground the butt of her cigarette under her shoe and waited to see what he would say. She thought she had a pretty good idea what the topic of conversation would be because it was what she had been quietly obsessing over all evening. She just needed to make sure that she stuck to the resolution she had made. She was going to give her honest opinion, she would listen to whatever he decided to say, she would offer the advice she thought best and she absolutely, in no way, would be affected by this stupid crush that seemed to be taking over her entire brain. She didn't need to wait long. After a couple of seconds of nervous pacing in front of her, he took a deep breath, leaned against the wall opposite her and started to speak, looking anywhere but at her.
"So, about earlier…What you saw… you haven't, like, told anyone about that have you?"
"Of course not. I'm not an idiot, Jordan." She replied.
"Look, you can't tell anyone, I mean it. She'd freak if anyone found out, she'd hate me if she doesn't already and-
"Jordan, just chill; I promise I won't tell a soul. Your secret is safe with me."
Her words seemed to sink in. Jenny could see Jordan relax a little but he still seemed tense compared to normal. She knew she was going to be late back from her break but reached for her pack of cigarettes anyway. She offered one to Jordan and rolled her eyes when he declined her Lucky Strikes in favor of his Marlboros.
As much as she had been cursing his name earlier, she was glad now that she had taken up smoking again. It was relaxing and it gave her an excuse to just to sit quietly for a moment and not bombard him with questions about what had happened when she left the store. It allowed her to just observe him while she reminded herself of all of the reasons why she should forget about the confusing feelings she had for him and why she should just be there for him like she would be there for any of her friends. He seemed distracted and stressed out and looked sort of tired. It didn't take a genius to realize that whatever happened between Angela and him had not gone as he had wished. She wanted to hug him and tell him that everything was going to be okay but she would need to have a crystal ball to know that that was true. She didn't think that empty platitudes would help him or be appreciated.
"You know, you're lucky that it was me that walked in and not one of those soccer moms that bring their little brats in for guitar lessons. They would have been shocked right out of their Hush Puppies and you wouldn't see those kids or dollars for dust." Jenny said, trying to coax at least a small smile out of him. However, talking about what she had seen made her think about it again. It was going to be a long time before she got that image out of her head and, despite the jealousy she felt, she wasn't entirely disappointed by that fact. Seeing the same thing, most of the soccer moms would probably feel the same because hot didn't even begin to cover it. "On second thought, it might have been good for business. Bored housewives would be lining up around the block."
"Don't try and turn this into some kind of a joke." Jordan replied. "It's not funny."
"Oh come on, it's a little bit funny." Jenny replied, nudging his foot with her own and giving him a little cheeky smile.
He shook his head but Jenny was sure she saw the corners of his mouth turn up slightly as he looked away.
"So, Catalano charm strikes again huh?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, Saturday night I was cheering you up through the medium of alcohol and by Monday afternoon, you're like a thing. You're actually happening."
"Nothing is happening."
"Didn't look like nothing."
"It's not like that." Jordan argued. "She just showed up and started yelling at me and …"
"And you thought doing the deed was the perfect comeback?" Jenny asked, trying her best to keep the conversation as light as possible for as long as possible.
"We didn't…do the deed." Jordan replied, trying and failing to come up with a better expression.
"You didn't?" Jenny's surprise was evident in both her voice and her expression.
"No, she ran out of there about two minutes after you did." Jordan replied, feeling too sorry for himself to admit that he had actually told Angela to leave.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to cock block you."
Jordan gave her a look. "Don't say things like 'cock block'. It just sounds wrong coming from you."
"Oh please! I spent most of my childhood being baby sat by Shane and his friends. It's not my fault if their vocabulary rubbed off." Jenny said before turning serious again. "So what are you going to do now?"
"I don't know." Jordan admitted. He had no idea what he was going to do about any of it. When they were actually a couple, all of those years ago, they fought as couples did and they made up again but everything was different now. Sometimes when he looked at Angela, he saw the teenager she was and felt like he knew her inside and out. It made him sure that he would figure out how to make things perfect between them, whether it be some quietly whispered words or a grand gesture. Other times he felt the weight of each and every single year that separated them and made them strangers with completely separate lives. He wished he knew how to articulate it but he just couldn't find the words. "I mean, it's Angela Chase, you know? She…I…It's … complicated."
Jenny thought that 'complicated' was probably the understatement of the year and as much has he wouldn't want to hear it, it was time that Jordan took a reality check. "Okay, I'm going to tell you what I think, give it to you straight, so don't get pissed off and just hear me out."
Rather than answer, Jordan moved his hand signaling her for to continue and just hit him with it.
"I don't think she's the right one for you." Jenny stated. "If you do this, I can't see any way it's going to end without someone getting hurt and I have to say that you could be the one to get really hurt here."
Again, Jordan made no reply but the tightness of his jaw indicated that he heard every word she said. Jenny took the fact that he did not verbally disagree with her to mean that he had probably thought the same thing himself and she couldn't help but play devil's advocate. "I know you have history and stuff and that you have, like, feelings for her but it is majorly complicated and you do have other options."
"What other options?" Jordan asked, more out of disbelief than curiosity.
Like that girl whose name you couldn't remember at Lets Bolt, like any of the single girls sitting in the bar, like me, Jenny wanted to say but she held her tongue. Jordan seemed to have planted her firmly in the 'friend' category and there was no indication that that was about to change. No matter how much she wished that she was Angela Chase, she seriously doubted that she ever would be. However, she wasn't used to seeing Jordan so serious or despondent. It would not be pleasant for her to watch but maybe all he needed was someone to take his mind off his high school sweetheart for a while to get him back to his normal self. "Like Sarah."
"Sarah, the new waitress?"
"Yeah, she thinks you're cute. She told me you were flirting with her after I left on Saturday night."
"What? No, I talked to her for a bit, ten minutes maybe, but that was it."
"Either way, she would go out with you if you asked."
"No." Jordan replied without even taking a second to mull it over. "She's not…I'm not…"
Jenny took that to mean 'She's not Angela' and 'I'm not interested'. "In that case, you need to talk to Angela. You need to tell her how you feel and find out whether she feels the same."
"It's not that simple."
"Make it that simple." Jenny argued, "You've been dancing around each other for weeks. Maybe it's time for you both to come clean with each other. If she shoots you down, she shoots you down but at least you'll be able to move on. If she feels the same way, well…I guess you'll need to decide, like together, what you're going to do about it."
She knew he was listening but Jordan didn't say anything in reply. He just leaned even further back if that was possible, and closed his eyes as if it hurt to look at the real world. And just when she thought he was finally going to speak, the real world interrupted.
"Jenny, get your butt back in here!" Mitch yelled into the yard. "And bring a crate of Bud with you."
"I'm coming!" She yelled back as she straightened her uniform and ran a hand through her hair. "You staying for a few drinks?"
"Nah. I'm not in the mood."
"Ok," She replied. "If you need to talk, or whatever, well don't call me but you know I'm here, right?"
"Yeah. Thanks." He said, following her back towards the building and when she picked up the required crate of beer, he took it out of her hands and let her lead the way back inside.
"You looking for a job, Catalano?" Mitch asked when it was Jordan rather than Jenny who dropped the beers behind the bar.
"Not unless you want to give me a permanent gig as house musician." Jordan joked. Before Mitch had a chance to respond, a sort of familiar face at the other end of the bar caught Jordan's attention. "Hey Jenny, looks like you have a visitor."
Both Jenny and Mitch turned their heads in the direction Jordan indicated but it was Mitch who spoke first. "So Keith came back."
"Keith? His name is Keith?" Jordan asked as all three of them looked at Jenny's guy from Saturday night.
"What's wrong with Keith?" Jenny asked.
"It's a douche bag name."
"He's not a douche bag. He's… uncomplicated." She didn't notice whether Jordan caught her choice of words or not. Although out of earshot, Keith looked in their direction, as if he knew he was the topic of conversation, and smiled while he pulled a small pink cell phone out of his jacket pocket and waved it in the air in her direction. "Yes! Right now he's pretty awesome too."
"You've got five minutes." Mitch said in a resigned tone. "But after that, for the love of god please get back to work."
"You are the best boss ever."
Jordan and Mitch watched her make her way over to Keith, weaving expertly between customers. When she reached him she expressed her gratitude for him returning her phone with a hug which Keith soon turned into a kiss.
"Ain't young lust grand?" Mitch said dryly
"Hhmmm," Jordan sighed in response. If Jenny was happy, he wanted to be happy for her but the sorry state of his own love life seemed to be making it impossible for him to feel happy about anything. The way that Keith was grabbing her ass, and thereby proving to Jordan that he was in fact a douche bag, was not helping either. "Well, I'm out of here."
"See you Thursday?"
"Yeah, Thursday." Jordan had been at every open mike night since Mitch opened Vertigo. He hadn't decided exactly what he was going to play this week but he had a few new songs he'd been working on. At that moment in time he could think of nothing better than going home and sitting alone with his guitar for a few hours. Rather than say goodbye to Jenny, he slipped quietly out of the door, taking care not to bump into Sarah on the way out.
When Sharon got home from work, she expected Edward to be there and had even mentally scheduled in some time for a conversation with him about Shane. Edward already knew that they had a date and, when Sharon had managed to coax some words from him about it on Sunday night he had said that he was ok with it. However, she wasn't entirely certain that he was. She thought it was more likely that it was bothering him but he had been so upset about breaking up with Rebecca that he had just wanted to be alone and said whatever he thought she needed to hear to make that happen. She had a feeling that now the date was imminent, he would be a lot more vocal about his displeasure.
So, when she came home to an empty house and a note on the fridge, which said that he was with his friends, but would be home before curfew and ended in an instruction to have fun, she was pleasantly surprised. He'd even drawn a smiley face. She was so pleasantly surprised that she decided not to worry about what he was getting up to and just enjoy the extra time she would have to pamper herself before Shane arrived. From the look on his face when she answered the door, it was time well spent. When Rayanne asked her about their evening, Sharon would have to say that Shane wasn't looking bad either. She would even go so far as to confess that his lopsided smile was nearly enough for her to say stuff dinner and drag him inside and upstairs instead, but she had just about managed to keep control of herself.
A short car ride took them to a small, family run restaurant in what passed for the Little Italy of Three Rivers. It wasn't much to look at from the outside but Shane had assured her that they had the best spaghetti and meat balls in Pittsburgh. Twenty seconds after the steaming plate arrived in front of her, Sharon whole heartedly agreed. As much as she loved the food in Graham Chase's restaurant and had enjoyed her first date there with Shane, she thought that this night was even better. It was a more relaxed setting; there were none of those awkward getting to know you conversations and Shane seemed completely relaxed, trading familiar greetings with both the staff and the other diners. He seemed so relaxed in fact that she started to wonder how many other dates he had brought there but a few carefully worded questions put her at ease.
Shane explained that he grew up just a few blocks away and that his mother, who still lived in his childhood home on the same street that Jordan had also grown up on, used to waitress there when he was a kid. The neighborhood was home to him and she couldn't help but take the fact that he would take her there as a positive sign. Sharon already knew that he was funny and made her laugh, she already knew that he had a kind, thoughtful nature hiding behind his tough exterior, and she already knew that when he kissed her he made her knees weak. What she didn't know until they were alone, without her teenage son and his friends or Jordan Catalano drama to distract them, was how much she wanted it to work and how much she was praying that he would be of the same opinion. She needn't have worried on that score. The only thing Shane was questioning was why they hadn't done this sooner. They had only been on each other's radars for a few months, considered each other actual friends for mere weeks, but to him it felt as if they had known each other forever. It just felt right.
It felt so right that Shane did not want the night to end. He and Sharon lingered over dessert and were allowed to sit at their table, just talking after their meal was finished, far longer than they would have been able to do at a larger, more commercial restaurant. Eventually though, the time came to settle the bill. Shane insisted on paying, just as he had on their first date, even though Sharon offered to pay her fair share. Sharon though it was romantic and sort of chivalrous because she had a suspicion that they both knew she probably made more money than him. She made a point of telling him that next time it was her turn and they both grinned at each other at the prospect of another evening spent in each other's company.
In Sharon's opinion, Shane pulled up outside her house all too soon. She wasn't quite ready for the night to end but it had to.
"So, I guess this is the part where the girl normally asks the guy if he wants to come in for coffee," she said.
"Would that be coffee or, you know, coffee?" Shane asked, adding a suggestive eyebrow quirk to the repetition of the word as if his meaning wasn't clear enough already.
"Actually, it's neither."
"Oh…oh, okay…well, I err…" Shane stuttered as Sharon watched the confused rejection spread across his face.
"No, no no," Sharon said quickly, eager to reassure him that they were still both on the same page. "I didn't mean it like that. I had a fantastic time tonight. I really did and I would love to invite you in … for coffee."
"Would that be coffee or, you know, coffee?" Shane asked again with a smirk that showed her words had had the intended effect.
"Oh shut up and let me explain!" Sharon laughed, swatting his arm playfully to hide the uncharacteristic coyness that was causing her to blush. "I do have a teenage son, you know?"
"Yeah, Edward and I have met on numerous occasions."
Sharon chose to ignore his sarcastic comment and carry on. "If he gets it into his head that he doesn't like something, he can be immature, moody and generally just a nightmare to live with so I think that it might be a good idea for him to get used to this gradually. I mean, I just think it will be better for us to sort of ease him to into the idea of us being a couple."
Sharon looked at Shane and waited for his response. It seemed to take a second for him to process what she had said and when he did speak, it wasn't quite the reaction she had been hoping for or even expecting. In fact, his smirk had all but disappeared and his expression was unreadable.
"Oh God, too soon, right?" Sharon replied as panic and her own sense of rejection started to set in. "I can't believe I just said that! I mean, I know I'm pushy but I'm not that pushy!"
"Sharon," Shane tried and failed to interrupt.
"I mean, of course I don't think that we're a couple. This is only our second date for crying out loud. You have to go on much more than two dates to be classified as a couple."
"I don't know exactly how many dates. I mean, I don't think there's, like, a rule or anything but we have definitely not been on enough for the word 'couple' to apply to us. It just came out and I-"
The noise seemed impossibly loud inside the small cab of Shane's pick up and caused enough shock to stop Sharon's babbling mid-sentence. It was only when the din stopped and silence descended that she even realized it had been caused by Shane's thumb firmly pressed against the horn.
"Why the hell did you do that? I mean, Jesus! I have neighbors you know, I-"
"Quit doing that!" Sharon yelled but found it hard to maintain the appearance of outrage when Shane had such a mischievous glint in his eye.
"Are you finished?"
"Am I finished? You're the one making all kinds of racket!" Sharon protested.
Fearing the onslaught of another rant, Shane's thumb started to stretch towards the horn once more but he wasn't being as subtle as he thought.
"Don't you dare!" Sharon warned giving him a look she usually reserved for her son. "And don't laugh at me!"
"I can't help it. You're funny when you're all flustered." Shane replied, grinning broadly. "Besides, that racket was the only way I could think of shutting you up so I could actually, you know, speak."
"I'm not funny and I'm not flustered either." Sharon huffed. "Go on then."
"You wanted to speak, so speak!"
Shane smile started to fall. He shifted in his seat uncomfortably as he tried to figure out what to say now that Sharon was looking at him expectantly. He hadn't felt this uncomfortable or embarrassed talking to a girl since he was a teenager and that fact that he knew it was totally irrational to feel that way only made it worse. He silently told himself to grow a pair and tell her what he was thinking, even if he was staring through the windshield rather than at her while he spoke.
"I don't know…I was just thinking that us being a couple…that seems…not so bad."
Sharon's eyes narrowed. "Not so bad?"
"That sounded better in my head." Shane cringed. "I just meant…oh hell, I'm not good with words okay? But I like you, you like me and I think we'll be good together so let's just give it shot and see what happens."
His simple honesty was enough to shock her into silence once more and now it was Shane's turn to fear that he had said too much, too soon.
"I'm not saying we need to rush into anything or, like, define our relationship or something. Edward's your priority. I get that. I respect that. If-"
"…you want to take it slow, ease him into the idea of us or whatever, then-
"…we'll take it slow."
"Shane!" She shouted, finally getting his full attention. "Just shut up and kiss me already!"
Shane didn't need to be told twice. Neither one knew how long they kissed for but when they finally pulled slightly away from each other they were both breathing heavily.
"You sure you don't want me to come in?" Shane murmured against her neck, his words of taking things slowly completely forgotten.
The feel of his breath made her tingle and when she felt his lips against her skin, the most she could offer in reply was a low soft moan as she tried not to let her resolve waiver. It was touch and go for a few seconds but the rattle of a discarded soda can being kicked down the street in their direction was loud enough in her otherwise peaceful suburban street to remind her that she was still sitting in Shane's truck in full view of the neighbors she had previously been concerned about. Being seen by them while making out like teenagers was a sure way to make her and Shane the number one subject of their gossip.
A quick glance down the street to check who was coming to swiftly removed all thought she had of inviting Shane in. Even if his features had not have been illuminated each time he passed under one of the street lamps, she would have recognized him instantly.
"I don't believe it." She said, pulling completely away from Shane and opening her door to climb out of his pick-up.
Following the direction of her eyes, Shane released a groan which was the exact opposite of the moan Sharon had made seconds earlier. Unknowing of his sister's use of the term cock blocked just hours before, the word fleetingly passed through his brain but was soon replaced with the word 'busted'. As he also opened his door and got out of the cab, he felt like a teenager being caught by someone's dad rather than an adult being caught by Sharon's teenage son.
"Edward Cherski, why are you not already in the house? Your curfew was up half an hour ago and you have school tomorrow!" Sharon scolded.
"I know I'm late but I had to walk Rebecca home." Edward replied. "I couldn't let her walk on her own. I mean, haven't you always told me to behave like a gentleman?"
From the look he was receiving, Shane got the impression that Edward thought that he had definitely not been behaving like a gentlemen. He sheepishly ran a hand through his hair as he leaned back against the hood of his car and the feeling of being busted only increased with Edward's next words.
"That shade of lipstick really isn't your color, Shane."
Shane was too busy wiping at his mouth and trying not to blush like a girl to notice the self-satisfied smirk Edward wore but Sharon picked up on it instantly.
Torn between giggling at Shane's reaction and wanting to tell Edward off for his teasing, she settled for aiming to keep a straight face. "Edward, go inside now."
"Sure Mom. See you tomorrow, Shane."
Sharon watched her son walk toward the house for a second before turning back to Shane.
"He was joking," she said with a small smile as she stopped Shane's hand from wiping at imaginary transferred lipstick.
"Funny. Kid's got a sense of humor." Shane replied and rather than let her hand go, he pulled her closer to him, comfortably settling his hands on her hips.
"He has his moments."
For a second Sharon thought that Shane was going to lean down and kiss her again but instead he spoke. "What was that he said about tomorrow?"
"Just that he'll see you."
"He will?" Shane asked, clearly confused.
"Yeah, at band practice," Sharon replied, giving the words the same tone she would use if she were saying 'well duh.'
"Oh…really?" Shane asked "I mean helping them with the competition was fun. I had a great time but I just figured that now it's done-"
"No way," Sharon interrupted indignantly, "You cannot just ditch them now! They need you! You-"
This time Shane interrupted her right back but having no car horn to lean he let his lips do the work for him and kissed her like she had thought he was going to do moments before. When they finally came up for air, they were just as breathless as they had been sitting in his car.
"As distraction techniques go, I definitely prefer that to the noise." Sharon sighed
"Me too," Shane replied, pulling her even closer as he nuzzled her hair. "Your hair smells great, you know that? Like coconut or something."
"Distraction techniques and flattery can work wonders." Sharon said as she took a second to savor the moment. "But with me it will only get you so far."
One minute Shane had his arms wrapped around soft feminine warmth. The next, his arms were empty and the only contact he had with the female in question was the sharp prodding of a carefully manicured nail against his chest.
"I was talking. You cannot quit the band. Year Zero needs a drummer and their drummer is you."
"No buts." Sharon interrupted. Changing tactics, she quit poking him and gave him her best seductive look "Besides, being in the band does have its benefits you know."
"Yeah, after all, once band practice is over, you do get to spend time with me."
Shane had a million reasons for why he should leave the band. He could have told her that they needed someone their own age and that he was too old to regress to his teenage years. He could also have told her how he didn't have time to practice every night and how he had had to turn down work to help the kids get ready for the competition at Pike Street. However, the look she was giving him made him forget all of the excuses he could have voiced and he came to the realization that he was pretty much wrapped around Sharon's little finger already. Strangely, he didn't seem to mind.
"Please say yes?" Sharon asked, stepping closer to him again and placing a soft kiss on his jaw. "Pretty please?"
"Okay, fine. I'll keep drumming for them but we're going to have to limit practice to twice a week. Maybe three times if I can fit it in."
"Thank you." Sharon smiled and showed her gratitude by kissing him on the lips this time.
Their kiss was not as deep this time and lasted only a few seconds before Shane pulled away with a small chuckle.
"What's so funny?" Sharon asked.
Shane nodded his head towards her house which was now lit up like a Christmas tree. Edward must have switched on every light and lamp Sharon had. "I think Edward's trying to tell me that it's about time I let you go. I had a girlfriend when I was seventeen whose dad used to do the same thing."
"Did it work?"
"Hell yeah, he was a really scary. I spent our whole relationship expecting the guy to beat me up."
"Well Edward's a big pussycat, I promise." Sharon replied. "However, he's probably right about it being time for me to head inside. I can guarantee he's poking around in the kitchen and I know from experience that he is capable of devouring the entire contents of the fridge when left to find his own snacks."
"Okay. I guess I'll see you tomorrow."
They shared one more, quick kiss before parting and as Sharon walked into the house, she felt as if she were walking on air. She couldn't remember the last time she had felt so optimistic about a member of the opposite sex. She was that happy that she couldn't even complain when she found Edward in the kitchen with the refrigerator door hanging wide open. She used her hip to nudge it closed as she passed and then used the other to budge her son away from the snack he was creating before he used the whole new block of cheese he had opened.
Edward took a seat while he mother finished off making his sandwich for him. He didn't mind that she had taken over because, no matter what the food was, it always tasted better when she did it.
"So you walked Rebecca home?" Sharon asked as she placed the plate in front of him.
"That doesn't mean we're back together Mom," Edward replied, anticipating her next question. "We're just friends."
"Weren't you with Mike too? I thought you never walked anywhere since he got that death trap you call a car."
Edward could have explained to her how he had spent the majority of the evening helping Mike to learn Amy's favorite song. He could have explained how Rebecca had helped him come up with the idea and was instrumental in not only getting Mike too see what a brilliant plan it was but also in getting him to persevere when the lyrics kept getting jumbled up in his head. He could also have explained that after the plan was executed almost to perfection by Mike, he only had eyes for Amy and wasn't going to be driving anywhere until Angela kicked him out of her house so he and Rebecca had decided to let the couple make up in private and had made a discreet retreat. However, explaining all of that would have seriously reduced the speed at which he was satisfying his appetite. Instead, he muttered "Mike was busy" in the general direction of his mother in between mouthfuls.
"Well, I hope you've done all of your homework for tomorrow because it's getting kind of late."
"Yeah," Edward muttered before shoving the last bite of sandwich into his mouth. "I've just got one thing for English to finish up but it won't take too long."
In reality, he had the whole of his English homework to do but admitting that would just get him a lecture on how he shouldn't go out on a school night until his homework was completed. If Sharon knew that his other homework had been done by Rebecca rather than himself, the lecture would be twice as long and she would probably make him redo it. Both he and Mike had been grateful for Rebecca's offer to help them out. It meant that they could both concentrate on learning the Crowded House song without having to worry about anything else. Not that Mike seemed worried at the prospect of not having anything to hand in the next day but it sort of made Edward feel better that she had done both of their work. If she was still his girlfriend, doing his homework for him wouldn't have seemed so weird but now that she was just a friend, or whatever, it kind of felt like he was taking advantage of her or something.
What felt even worse was the fact that he kept having to remind himself that they were just friends now because when she looked at him a certain way or smiled at him, it felt as if they were still a couple. It was confusing and he hadn't quite worked out how to behave around her yet. He still wanted to put his arm around her and hold her hand, and while he reasoned that friends could do things like that, he knew that he didn't mean it in just a friendly way. He was not worried that she would misinterpret any such physical contact. Rather he was scared that she would interpret it in exactly the right way because then she might think that they could not be just friends. As far as Edward was concerned, being just friends was better than nothing.
However, when he thought back to the way in which they had parted, he thought that maybe Rebecca was having similar problems. When they had reached the restaurant, neither of them had known how to say good bye. Only a few days before, goodbye would have been said with a kiss but they weren't technically allowed to do that anymore so they had just sort of stared at each other for a while until the silence started to become uncomfortable. A few awkward words finally released them and allowed them to go their separate ways. Edward thought the situation could only mean two things. Either they needed to work harder to figure out how to act around each other now or this 'just friends' thing may be just a temporary state. He wasn't sure how he would cope if they were to be more than just friends again. After all there was a reason why they broke up and without one of them seriously changing their attitude towards sex, he couldn't see how they would not end up in exactly the same situation again. He couldn't help but feel a little bit hopeful though and decided that tomorrow he would try to relax a bit more around her.
Although his thoughts were taken up with his own love life, the way Sharon hovered in the kitchen behind him gave in the impression that she may want to talk about hers. He didn't necessarily object to her having a love life and Shane was a cool sort of guy, but he didn't want to have to think or talk about the actual details. It was just far too gross. He was pretty sure from the way that Shane had behaved that they had at least made out a little bit but he would be forever grateful that it was too dark outside for him to actually see whatever was going on in the cab of Shane's truck. It was bad enough catching them making out backstage at Pike street. Seeing that again may have actually scarred him for life.
As expected, Sharon started to broach the subject. "So anyway, about tonight…"
"Mom, it's getting late. I really need to go finish my homework." Edward replied, making a hasty retreat to his bedroom.
"I had a really nice time, thanks for asking." Sharon's voice followed him out of the room but the only response she got was the sound of Edward's boots as he stomped up the stairs. She had thought that the way he teased Shane meant that he may actually be taking their dating in his stride but she sighed as she realized that her first assessment of him needing time to adjust was correct.
"Where did you get Chinese food?" Edward asked as he dumped his bag on the floor by the picnic tables and sat down opposite Mike and Amy.
"Two words. Ti-no." Amy replied as she picked up a butterfly shrimp.
Rather than eat it herself, she held it out towards Mike who leaned over and took it with his mouth, licking sauce off her fingers at the same time. Edward felt his expression turning into one of disgust at their behavior. He was glad they had made up but their public displays of affection were getting more and more repulsive as the day wore on. He shared a mutual eye roll with Steve who had joined their table at the same time as him. As revolting as they thought Mike and Amy's antics were, it did not spoil their teenage appetite and they were soon also reaching for cartons of food.
"Why was Tino here?" Edward asked as he tucked into noodles.
"There was something in my car he needed." Mike replied.
"What was so important that he had to come all the way over here? I mean, couldn't it wait until school was out?" Edward asked without thinking.
The look he received in reply from Mike did more than words could to express how much Mike wanted him to drop the subject and Edward could feel the happiness he had for his friends start to crumble just a little. Obviously, whatever Tino had needed was nothing good but sometimes it was easy to forget the stuff that Mike was secretly involved in. It was easy to forget that different people knew Mike in completely different ways and that he refused to develop some kind of combination him. Edward knew that keeping things separated was Mike's way of coping with doing things for Tino that he felt obligated to do and, in some ways, it was also his attempt to protect Amy from that part of his life. However, that didn't mean that Edward didn't feel angry about it or guilty for playing his own part in keeping Amy in the dark.
"So what was it?" Amy asked, not as oblivious to the looks the boys were giving each other as they thought she was.
"Just something he left in there. I didn't really ask and who cares anyway, right? Only thing that matters is that he brought food." Mike shrugged. Making light of it wasn't really having the effect he'd desired though. Edward was still glaring into his carton of noodles and he could practically see the wheels of curiosity spinning in Amy's head. Luckily, before she had the chance to ask any further questions, he spotted the perfect distraction across the yard. "Hey, who's that with Rebecca?"
Mike wasn't sure whether Amy's or Edward's head spun quicker in the direction he indicated but it was actually Steve who answered the question.
"Well, duh!" Edward replied with his eyes glued to his ex as she walked towards the east entrance. The combination of Tino's visit to the school and her smiling at the new guy was doing wonders to make his appetite rapidly disappear. He dropped his carton of food on the table and tried but failed to achieve a neutral tone. "So, who is he and why is Rebecca with him?"
Again, it was the normally stoic Steve who answered, producing the uninterested tone that Edward had been striving for and flicking through a music mag while he spoke. "Sol Richardson. He's ¼ Puerto Rican, named after his grandfather and he just moved here from Wisconsin. He was on the swim team in his last school and is interested in photography."
"How do you know that shit?" Mike asked.
"He's in my home room. We have a sub. She actually made him stand at the front and introduce himself."
They were too far away for Amy to really see his features but his tall, broad shouldered frame and rich skin tone wasn't lost on her. He was a hottie, from a distance anyway, and she had a feeling that he would be just as hot close up.
"Oh yeah, I remember." Amy replied to the second half of Edward's question. "Student committee decided we should have an organized meet and greet for any new students. Rebecca drew the short straw so I guess she's showing him around."
"Oh," Edward grumbled but made no further response.
Even if the boy's weren't interested, Amy was a little bit curious about the new guy so she decided to ignore Edward's sour expression and shouted Rebecca's name. Rebecca turned and waved. They were too far away to hear what she was saying but, from her pointing, Amy guessed that she was informing the new guy of their identities. That was the entire introduction they got though. Rebecca made a few 'busy, got to go' gestures and then she and Sol Richardson continued on their previous course.
Mike and Steve didn't seem to notice but it was clear to Amy that Edward's glare deepened as Rebecca walked away with a big smile plastered on her face.
"She really didn't want to do it. Be the meet and greet girl, I mean. She said she'd feel like tour guide Barbie or something."
"Whatever." Edward replied.
"I bet she'll come over and see us all soon, when she's finished showing him around." Amy tried again.
"Whatever." Edward repeated. "What do I care? She can hang out with who she wants. Anyway, I'm out of here. I've got to… I've got to go."
He was up out of his seat and striding towards the bleachers before anyone could protest.
"Green eyed monster much?" Steve drawled as he leisurely turned the pages of his magazine.
"Shut up, Steve." Amy spat in his direction.
"Yeah Steve, shut up." Mike added in a much more playful tone than his girlfriend.
All either of them received in response was a well-recognized hand gesture.
Angela had been sitting in her car for ten minutes, trying to decide whether it was safe to get out or not. The parking lot at the college had been slowly filling as people arrived for their night classes and, so far, she had not spotted Red anywhere.
She had not seen or talked to Jordan since the previous afternoon when she had gone to his store and the thought of seeing him was causing her stomach to churn. She had no idea what she should say to him or how she should act if they did see each other. Part of her wanted to hide away forever and cocoon herself in her nice, safe domestic life where everything used to make sense. Another part of her knew that the longer they went without seeing each other the more awkward the whole situation would be. She thought that it would be best to get it over with as quickly as possible. If they could stand in each other's company for a few moments without wanting to rip each other's heads, or clothes, off perhaps there would be hope that they would actually survive this thing without any further repercussions. And then there was that other small part of her, the part that seemed frozen at age fifteen; that thought she might actually die if she never saw him again.
She felt like screaming in frustration at the idiocy of the whole thing but settled for giving herself a stern look in the mirror on the back of the sun visor.
You are a grown woman, she mentally told herself, you are not some lovesick teenager. You are in control. You have paid for your place on this course and you have done the damn homework. Get your ass out of this car and inside that building right now.
In her head, she sounded exactly like her mother but it was enough to make her to open the car door and start the walk towards the college building. Unfortunately, she had gone no more than 10 strides when her confidence started to slip. She heard Red before she saw her. That low pitched growl was unmistakable. It was as much of the soundtrack to her youth as the music she used to listen to and, as she continued her walk at a slightly slower pace, there was no mistaking the fact that it was getting louder and therefore closer to her. When the car did eventually come into view, her step faltered once more. It looked shinier than the last time she saw it, like Jordan had just had it waxed or something. And as he slowed to pull into one of the last few free spaces, she could hear the music that he was listening to even though the top was up and the windows were wound closed.
Her heart hammered in her chest and her stomach started to churn once more as she realized that the parking space he had chosen was next to the path she was currently walking along. Her legs continued to move of their own accord as she watched him effortlessly ease the car into a space she would have struggled with in her much smaller modern vehicle, while her mind started to scream at her to turn around and flee. She was a split second from doing just that when he switched off the engine and looked in her direction. Their eyes met and in her panic, Angela attempted to grip her binder closer to her as if was some kind of shield while trying to tuck her hair behind her ears at the same time. The result was a clatter of binder, text book and pencil case all hitting the concrete around her.
She bent down quickly to pick up her things and the only thing that stopped her from going red with embarrassment, was the fact that he had rolled his eyes at her clumsiness. She found the fact that he seemed to be embarrassed for her quite helpful. It helped her forget her own awkwardness and focus upon the small flare of anger she felt for him in that second. As for chivalry, forget about it. Jordan made no attempt to help at all. He didn't even open the car door. He just sat and watched as she collected her things and stood up again. She forced herself to start moving and when she looked in his direction again, the only difference was that his car window was now open and he had lit a cigarette.
Despite the fact that she was glaring at him as she walked, she was unable to look away. Jordan looked right back at her as she walked towards him. Like always, he looked calm and collected but who knew what was actually going on in that head of his. Was he as conflicted and confused as her? Had he been thinking about her, about what had happened and what could have happened if they had not been interrupted? She had absolutely no idea.
Rather than walking straight past, she paused when she reached the car and just looked at him, daring him to say something first. When he did speak, his words were accompanied by another infuriating eye roll but they were the last words she had expected.
Angela was about to protest that she could not go anywhere, that classes were due to start in ten minutes, but then she realized that they had already had that conversation more than once. While part of her knew that it was not a good idea to get in his car, she was sort of relieved that he wanted to talk to her and also more than a little curious about what he actually wanted to say. Besides, while the car was not exactly private, it would certainly be more private than having a discussion on the walkway where anyone might overhear them.
She silently opened the passenger door and sat down, determined that she would not be the first to speak. She had no clue as to the words or phrases she could possibly use to describe the jumble of thoughts in her head and she feared that if she started first, whatever conversation they might have would turn into nothing more than incoherent ramblings on her side.
It was as if Jordan could a sense her stubbornness on this point and he made two attempts to open his mouth and speak but each time the words did not come. All she received was a sigh that verged on being a huff and the feeling that Jordan regretted asking her to get in, which was compounded by their inability to actually look at each other. Jordan shifted in his seat and out of the corner of her eye Angela saw his hand start to move. She was convinced that he was going to reach across her and open her door, dismissing her without actually saying a word. Imagine her surprise when instead, his hand moved to the ignition and Red's engine roared to life.
Thanls for reading. Please R & R ~LJ~