After school, before the grayed porch steps of the entrance, I try to talk to Sam.

"Can I walk you home?" I ask her.

She ignores me.

"Please Sam. Don't do this. We're best friends, remember?"

Maybe that touches a bit of her heart. She stops, with her back to me. "Look... Danny. I just need some time alone, okay? You rejected my feelings your way; I'm handling my feelings my way."

"But Sam--"

"Leave me alone Danny!"

With those words declared, she runs off. My best friend actually runs away from me.

"Aww," coos Paulina, jarring me from my shock. "Lover's spat?" She and another attention-grubbing socialite, Star, giggle as they walk pass me.

"No," I say, even though they aren't listening. "It was a friendship spat. Because friends argue sometimes. But they always make-up. They can--"

"Danny, who are you talking to?"

"--be friends again..." Oh, great. Add 'talks-to-air' onto the list of 'best-friend-hurter'. "No one," I say to Tucker.

"That's kind of what I was afraid of. Dude, you should really take it easy."

"You don't hate me for what I did to Sam?"

"Eh, stuff happens buddy. But we're the dynamic trio. We've been together for, like, ever at this point..." He silently shifts his backwards cap forward. It's a little unnerving, he never does that and the last thing I need is for him to change on me too, but soon enough the cap fits back into its regular position. Soon enough, we're back to what we were. "We'll survive." He shrugs.

I smile at that. "We've survived a lot of things already, huh?"

He nods, grinning. "The stories we'll tell when we're old, gray, and slightly deaf to rock-and-roll. Wanna come over to my place and play some video games? Or are you going to try talking to Valerie?"

I scan the moving clumps of people for her. One clump is not a clump-- but a duo. I shake my head, nudge Tuck with my elbow.

"Nah," I say. "Let's go."

It's not the time to see her.

I never thought I would think this... but thank goodness for Dash.

Stuck underneath the most important table ever (at least, right now anyway) was all thanks to the biggest and most popular idiot in the school: Dashiel "Dash" Baxter and his buddy-goon Kwan. When the lunch bell rang the next day at school, they immediately cornered me.

"Now what?" I sighed, although no one needed a reason to have gotten on the bad side of these guys. If they felt in the mood to plummet heads they plummeted heads in typical jock grace: really rough, really hard, really happily. On top of Sam still not speaking to me, and Valerie and I only able to exchange a smile before the atmosphere goes from pleasant to awkward, I was so not in mood to deal with Dash-stamped stupidity. "I breathe too loud for you today?"

"Oh, Fenton's got jokes? Well, they sound like table jokes to me!" Dash hauled me over his shoulder.

"Uh, Dash, not that I'm not flattered but--"

"Shut up Fenton!"

The cafeteria was relatively empty, but only for a few minutes longer. That was just enough time for dumb-and-dumber to strap me under a table with glue, tape, and used gum before a teacher walked in or the cafeteria ladies miraculously cared for once.

"Now that's funny!" Kwan hee-hawed. He and Dash slapped hands loud enough for me to hear it in the shadows of our wooden school furniture. Soon enough, they strutted off. I was left to wait until the increasingly-crowded cafeteria emptied enough for me to Go Ghost and shift pass... clods of raspberry-flavored chewing gum.

Two people suddenly sat on the chairs encircling the table, opposite each other. I was so pushed against the bottom surface of it I didn't have to worry about a leg kicking me. If one of them tried to staple some vanilla-flavored gum to mix up the raspberry, though, I was in trouble.

That's when I heard what I'm hearing now:

"So what is it about Fenton that you like anyway?"

Valerie is right beside me, right here: at the table I'm underneath. More importantly -- and I try to wipe the gooey expression I know is invading my face--she's talking about me. Or her friend Star is. Now, maybe, I could learn why exactly she broke up with me before we began.

... thank goodness for Dash.

"Let's not talk about it," Valerie says.

"No, we need to. It's weird. Super super weird. Can't you date someone on the team?"

"I'm not dating anyone."

"Possibly date someone on the team?"

"And get footballs as birthday gifts? No thanks. Oh Star, I'm kidding. I guess... after going through some things... I've changed. I don't even shop at the same places--"

Star shudders down to her new shoes. "I've noticed."

They giggle at that, and I wildly wish I could string Valerie's laugh into a bracelet, wear it around my wrist and then give it to her. She's too serious sometimes; having her laugh as a gem, not a chain, might loosen her up... might let her like me more.

"Why did you break it off with Fenton?"

There's a long, torturous pause.

"It's complicated," she softly admits.

"Be specific!" I hiss in frustration.

Star's troubled voice pops out, "Okay, like, not that I believe in ghosts like Fenton's parents, but I could have sworn a voice just said 'Be scientific!'" A scrapping sound, like something being pushed, hits the air. "No more cafeteria food for me."

Valerie, thankfully, ignores her friend. "It's just that... I don't think I should be with anyone. The stuff I go through isn't something I want to involve anyone important to me if I don't have to."

"And the child of ghost-hunting freaks is important to you?"

The noise of nervousness takes shape; my heartbeat hammers into my eardrums like thunder. I'm fully human. This answer won't go through me. My body will absorb whatever she says, however she decides to place me in her life. If I'm not worth it I'll let it go. Feelings change...


If she wants to get back together too...

"Yea. He is."

I don't hear anything else. The thunder rooted in my ears?

Its yellow color has just begun to dance.

...But when are you going to get from underneath the table Danny? (Laugh.) Thank you to everyone who has reviewed! Thank you for the warning as well Dream Trance; I had no idea the shipping disputes were still so fierce! Hope 2010 is finding all well outside of that. ~HSS