Disclaimer: I do not own Nineteen Minutes that belongs to the genius Jodi Picoult.
Should've, Could've, Would've
By: Astoria Goode
They were trying on mini skirts on the mall when Josie had snapped.
She hadn't been planning it she hadn't even of thought about it for that matter. It was just one of those things that just happened, like your cell phone dying and burned toast.
"Come on," Courtney had said when they went into The Limited together. It was just the two of them shopping because it was just becoming warm enough to wear shorts- finally! Normally Josie had not exactly enjoyed summer because it usually meant that she couldn't talk to Peter except for the random e-mail or chance encounter, but this year was going to be different, she could taste it.
Courtney had filled her head with promises of lounging at the public pool, middle school parties, and boys and to be honest Josie had lapped it all up. But she had wanted to make sure that she looked, well, cool enough to do all of these 'cool' things and so she had recruited Courtney into coming shopping with her to be her yes or no factor. Ordainairly the only person that Josie shopped with was her mother, but her mother would have wanted her to just stick with the younger girl's clothes-she was still skinny enough that she could fit into them easily, she wasn't even the biggest size yet-but she was going to go into seventh grade and she wanted to shop in the Junior's section.
Courtney had immedality zoned in on the Junior's section as soon as they were in the store and had picked her way through the 'acceptable' clothing without even sparing Josie a second glance. Well Josie had asked for Courtney's help, and just like everything else Courtney did she shopped going full speed and didn't stop to think. Occasionally there would be a few sounds from the side of the store that Courtney was on, an "Ew," here and there or an humorless laugh but other than that the store was relatively empty and the only other thing a person could hear was cheesy music that poured from the speakers.
Josie, on the other hand, was on the opposite side of the store and was just waiting for Courtney to finish picking things out for her so that she could go try them on. She was pretty sure that whatever she chose would be deemed unacceptable and so Josie didn't even try.
There was one piece, though, that caught her eye. It was a light blue spaghetti strapped dress with a large butterfly embordried in silver at the hem. Josie was pretty sure that the color of the dress matched her eyes exactly and to be honest she liked the babyish butterfly. It was something she would have worn in what seemed like a past life, playing house with Peter.
Peter. That was a subject that Josie rarely liked to think about. They were at one time best friends and now... they were nothing other than a accidental eye contact made in the crowded hallway that was quickly averted and forgotten.
She had basically ditched him for some make-up and a few friends that Josie wasn't even sure could be considered friends.
Josie was torn out of her thoughts, quickly though. "Josie?" Courtney called from across the store with a pile of clothes in her hands. "I found some things for you."
"Okay," Josie answered fingering the butterfly one last time before turning her back on it and meeting Courtney at the dressing rooms.
Courtney's face glowed with excitment. "Try on the mini skirt and pink tank top, they'll look so cute together."
Josie did what Courtney ordered and at took a look at herself in the mirror before she walked out the door. The mini skirt was far shorter than Josie (or her mother) would be comfortable and the tank top was shimmery and sequined so much that it almost blinded you to look at it. It wasn't something that Josie would have chosen for herself. Ever.
She went over to the rest of the clothes Courtney had chosen for her. They were all either too revealing, too flashy, or just plain ugly in Josie's opinion. Would she have chosen these things for herself? Was this the person that Courtney really saw her as, someone who would wear a dress with a large hole cut out in the chest that just seemed to be waiting to tear open and expose all?
Well, Josie wasn't.
"Josie?" Courtney asked. "Are you ready yet? You're taking forever in there."
Josie quickly changed out of the clothes and walked out of the dressing room past Courtney. "Hey, where are you going?" Courtney grabbed Josie's wrist.
Josie easily shook her off. "I don't think we can be friends anymore," she said and walked past the front door of the shop leaving a very astonished Courtney behind her.
Josie found some spare change in her pocket and went over to the pay phones in the food court to call the number that she still knew by heart even though she convinced herself that she had forgotten it already.
"Hello?" the voice on the other end said.
"Peter? Can you please come get me?"
"Josie, where are you?" Peter asked, sounded clearly confused. Josie didn't blame him.
"I'm at the mall in Rodon. Can you get someone that would pick me up? I mean, if not I guess I get it. I can get someone else to pick me up," Josie bit her lip. She acutally didn't have anyone who could pick her up anytime soon, and she was betting that Courtney's mother wouldn't exactly want Josie in her car any time soon.
"Yeah, let me get my mom," Peter replied.
When they got to Josie's house Peter walked her to the door. It had been an extremely awkward ride home and neither Josie nor Peter had said anything and Peter's mother hadn't even tried. Josie just couldn't think of anything to say.
"Thanks," she told him at her front door.
"Your welcome." It was clear that Peter was extremely uncomfortable. He turned to go but Josie's next words stopped him.
"Look, Peter, I-I," Josie wasn't sure how to put this exactly. How do you tell someone that you didn't mean to humiluate him, even if you did? "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said those things to you, and I never should have stopped being your friend."
"It's okay." This was an obvious lie.
"No, it's not. And I would really, really like a chance to be friends again. Please?" Josie was offering basically her heart and soul here. She had just offened the most popular girl at school, ruined her summer, and was now crawling back to Peter Houghton who probably wanted nothing to do with her. She wouldn't have wanted anything to do with Peter if he had treated her the way she had treated him.
Peter hesitated for a second before smiling broadly. "I would like to be your friend again. It would be nice." Josie felt her eyes fill with tears of relief.
She hugged him.
Peter couldn't believe that he was about to do this, but he was. His palms were sweating and he nervously fiddeled with his glasses. He took a deep breath before stepping over to her table where everyone was looking at him like he was a leper. A disgusting leper that was more contagious than the usual kind.
"Hi Josie," he said and smiled and he watched as her face turned a different shade of red than he had ever seen on her before. "I thought you might like to join me for lunch." Josie looked mortified. Damn. He knew this was a bad idea. He never should have even tried to listen to his mother. Maybe his e-mail hadn't done the trick, hadn't made Josie want to leave Matt the way Courtney Ignatio had said she would. Damn it all to hell.
"Um," Josie began. "I..." for the first time Josie looked nervous and Peter felt his heart jump start despite himself.
"She'd love to," Courtney said, flipping her blonde hair behind her shoulder with a casual flick of her wrist. "When hell freezes over."
He knew it. Peter felt his face heat up when the table dissolved into giggles all directed at him. They were always directed at him.
Something in Josie changed, though. Her eyes took on a steely look and she glared at her group of 'friends'. "You know what, I think I will." Josie stood up and took her Tater Tots with her.
Her friends all looked shell shocked and Peter had to admit that it was pretty funny. He smiled even brighter and Josie smiled back at him even more brightly and he could tell that she wasn't just trying to make fun of him like usual. This was the real deal, the whole enchilada. Peter, to be honest, was a little shocked. He hadn't been expecting this.
Matt Royston was the first one to say something. "Josie, come on babe, it was just a joke."
"I'm getting sick of your jokes, Matt." This was something straight out of Peter's fantasies. It was just all so surreal. "It's over, I'm through with you."
Josie looked at him. "Well?" she asked so directly that it made him jump. "Where do you normally sit?"
"By the trash cans," he admitted.
Josie pursed her lips. "That's the first thing that we're going to have to change. Come on."
Josie was fucking hot. She was tired and did not like being stuck in this elevator with Peter Houghton of all people. And now she was playing Truth or Dare with him, the eptimome of childish games. This had to be the strangest day of her life.
"Truth," he said.
"Do you hate me?" Josie wasn't exactly sure she wanted to hear the answer to this question, but she needed to hear the answer. There was a fine line between needing and wanting, though.
"You should." She believed this too. He should hate her. After all those years of friendship, after all the play dates and day trips they had taken, she had never stood up for him. Not once.
"Truth or dare?" Peter asked.
"Do you hate me?"
"No." This was truthful. She didn't hate him, she had no reason to and if she was honest with herself she missed him, just the tinest bit. Maybe she didn't even miss him. Maybe she just missed who she was with him, the real her.
"Then why," Peter asked, "do you act like you do?"
Josie shook her head. "I have to act the way people expect me to act. It's part of the whole... thing. If I don't..." Josie messed with the rubber brace of her crutch trying to do anything to avoid looking at him. "It's complicated. You wouldn't understand." And he wouldn't. He was used to being himself for his whole life and he had reaped the consequences. She had pretended to be someone else and had reaped the rewards. Josie wasn't quite sure which was better.
"Truth or dare." Thank God he changed the subject, she thought.
"Lick the bottom of your foot."
Josie began to laugh. This was just so ridiculous. "I can't even walk on the bottom of my own foot," she said but began taking off her loafer anyway and stuck out her tounge when she realized she wouldn't be able to reach.
"Truth or dare," she asked.
"Chicken." Josie thought about this. "Have you ever been in love?"
"Yeah, I think so," he answered. To be quite honest Josie was shocked. She couldn't believe that he could feel such a... normal emotion.
"With who?" Josie didn't mean to ask that.
"That wasn't the question. Truth or dare."
"What was the last lie you told?" She had to think about this one, she told so many lies daily.
Josie felt the smile slip from her face like melted butter. "When I told you I slipped on the ice. Matt and I were having a fight and he hit me."
"He hit you?"
"It wasn't like that... I said something I shouldn't have, and when he- well, I lost my balance, anyway, and hurt my ankle."
"Josie-" She didn't want to hear him say. If the words weren't spoken they wouldn't have to be acknowledged, it was just that simple.
"No one knows. You won't tell, will you?"
"No." Peter hesitated. "Why didn't you tell anyone?"
"That wasn't the question," Josie said, trying to say that as smoothly as he did.
"I'm asking it now."
"Then I'll take a dare."
"Kiss me," he said.
This hadn't been what Josie had been expecting, that was for sure. But she had wanted to play and so she had to go all the way. Besides, it wasn't as if Jodie was some kind of prude. It wouldn't technically be cheating on Matt anyway. It wasn't like she was having sex with Peter or anything.
She leaned in slowly, for some reason wanting to savor this moment. It would probably never happen again. For some reason Josie remembered suddenly a time when they were riding bikes on Peter's street and the neighbor's puppy had ran in front of Peter's bike so quickly that Peter hadn't been able to swerve to avoid it. He had hit it and began crying when he heard the puppy welp. He had been so tender and had gone to the neighbor himself, Josie closely in tow, and had apologized. The puppy had ended up being fine and had grown into one annoying dog, but Josie never forgot the look on his face when he realized that he had hit something that was alive.
Josie was planning on just kissing his cheek but for some reason she kissed his mouth instead. Emotions that she didn't know about bubbled to the surface and for some reason the world began fading from her. She didn't feel this with Matt anymore.
When they broke apart she was breathing heavily, and so was Peter. He smiled at her with that beautiful smile of his. "We should've done that a lot sooner," was the only thing he said.