Chapter 29

"There's lights on. And that's Corey's dads car, I think" Jordan says, a little puzzled, as they pull up in front of the loft.

"Maybe he drove Tino over?" Angela says, looking disappointed.

It's been more than a week now since she told Jordan she was ready and they still haven't um, done it, because between Jordan working all the time, it being the last few weeks of school, studying for finals, the trauma of Tino's accident, plus Ricky and Rayanne not being able to Danielle sit as much because of rehearsals, everything's been insanely complicated.

"Maybe we should just go to your house instead." She looks at Jordan and sighs as he pulls her in close to him. She's been in his house exactly two times since she's known him, and both times he's been nervous about them being there.

"Nah. I'll ask them to leave. It'll be cool."

"Where's that place on Cloverdale when we need it" she mutters, cracking him up. "Seriously."

"Come on" he laughs, taking her hand, pulling and sliding her carefully across the front seat "they'll be gone soon."

#oooooOOOooooo#

"I don't believe this" Angela says, walking into the loft and moaning in despair at the sight of Tino and Sharon sitting on the couch, playing monopoly with Corey and Rayanne "you're playing board games?"

"Can't drive" Tino says, looking at his right leg in a cast and gesturing to a pair of crutches "for sure can't dance. Can't even sit in a movie comfortably. I'm bored out of my friggin mind. So Sharon came up with this Boardwalk and Park Place game.

"What are friends for?" Sharon says, giggling.

"Or Saturday nights" Rayanne says, looking up from the board "you guys want to play?"

Angela shakes her head and looks at Jordan who just rolls his eyes and looks totally appalled. Corey's on a date or something with Rayanne and Tino's with Sharon and on crutches, and there's no way he can ask them to leave now.

"Shit. Okay. Plan B. Oh right, there isn't one. Okay, make the best of this Catalano."

"We'll just hang here for a few minutes and leave" he whispers, wrapping his arm around Angela's shoulder and smiling at her emphatic nod.

She flops down in the hammock and he considers joining her, but since he really doesn't want to start kissing her here, in front of everyone, and since he knows that's exactly what would happen if they were to be horizontal in proximity, he walks over and opens up his guitar case instead, sits down and starts to play softly.

He's playing something sweet and bluesy that seems familiar to them all, even though no one recognizes it, and after a minute Tino looks up and nods in approval, Sharon visibly softens, and Rayanne and Corey, who have been strangely shy with each other so far, smile and make sustained eye contact. Angela, lying in the hammock, feels herself relaxing and being grateful for an actual Saturday night out with her boyfriend and her friends, even if it wasn't what she'd had in mind walking out the door a half hour ago. She loves to hear Jordan play, and it's an incredible relief to just lie there and let the music wash through her.

"Move over Chase face" she hears, and feels the hammock shift as Sharon settles in next to her.

"You aren't exactly who I was hoping for" she says sarcastically and then she has to giggle.

"I could tell." Sharon smirks before looking at her apologetically, "Look, I'm really sorry I didn't think about this before. I just got carried away trying to get Corey and Rayanne together and set this whole thing up without thinking you'd probably want to be alone here tonight."

"I have to say, I'm impressed. How did you do it?"

"Asked Corey first. To give us a ride and hang. When he said yes I asked Tino to go along with it for Rayanne, and then I told Rayanne without mentioning Corey. Then Corey asked her if she was coming and she tried to bail, but I talked her down."

Sharon smiles triumphantly and then looks remorseful.

"Really sorry to screw up your evening though" she says.

"It's all right" Angela sighs. We're never going to be alone anywhere, ever again anyhow. I may as well resign myself to like, stolen moments in the boiler room and the back seat."

"Be grateful." Sharon says mournfully "At least he's not wearing a cast" and then the two of them start to giggle and for a while they can't stop.

Tino glances over in their direction and smiles, and then he looks over at Rayanne and gives her a little smile of approval too. She's talking quietly to Corey and no one is looking at the monopoly board anymore, so Tino leans back on the couch and starts to tap out a gentle rhythm on his cast. When Jordan's playing shifts to Nirvana's "Polly", Tino starts to sing along softly and Jordan looks up and nods.

"Try it a little lower?" he says, moving the capo along the guitar neck, and then the two of them start in together, softly at first, and then a little stronger, smiling as their voices find the harmony.

They sing a couple Replacements songs together, and then, when Jordan strums the opening riff to "Here Comes a Regular", Tino leans back.

"Come on Raynee" he says, looking at her affectionately, "we always used to sing this one together" so she puts her voice in with his and Jordan's and blends in perfectly, singing right on top of them, an octave higher.

"Wow" Sharon says, still lying next to Angela in the swing "she can really sing."

"And act. And cook. She's totally talented, if she could just believe in herself."

"I think maybe she's starting to." Sharon says smiling. "Chase face?"

"Yeah?"

"Summer vacation's coming. You're going to have lots of time alone with Jordan."

"I know" she says and grins "that's what he says too."

#oooooOOOooooo#

"Do you think they're maybe doing it right now?" Danielle giggles to Ricky, sitting on the front room couch.

"Danielle" he says "that's nobody's business. Turn the movie on." He has no idea how she's osmosed the idea, but he's definitely not encouraging the conversation, even though he seriously hopes Angela and Jordan do get some privacy.

"Bet that's Brian" she says, when the doorbell rings and Ricky gets up to answer it.

It is, and he ambles over to the couch and sits down without a word, wearing a dejected look.

"Janet dumped me" he says in response to their questioning expressions, "and she says this time it's for good."

"Why?" Ricky asks, frowning at Danielle's smile, "I thought everything was going so well."

"Yeah, me too. And she wasn't even like, mad at me this time. But she said, you know, she's going away for the summer and wants to be free, and that anyhow, my priorities seem to lie, like, elsewhere."

"Too bad. So want to watch the movie?"

"What is it?"

"What difference does it make?" Danielle says, happily snobby "It's What's eating Gilbert Grape."

"You're right" Brian sighs "what difference does it make."

#oooooOOOooooo#

"Take it" Jordan says, handing the guitar over to Corey and standing up. "I'm gonna take Angela and go get something to eat."

Corey takes the guitar and starts to strum it softly, and Jordan tilts his chin up in goodbye to Tino, who has turned and put his arm around Rayanne.

"You sound amazing" Tino tells her "seriously."

"Aw shucks. It was the three of us together."

"That part was fun. But you sound great." He leans back and messes up her hair. "You tell her, Corey" he says, looking over at him.

"He's right" Corey says, looking at her and smiling, "amazing."

Tino watches the smile break across Rayanne's face and reaches over for his crutches. By the time he's got them, Rayanne's kissing Corey Helfrick and the two of them don't even pause or look up when the couch rocks from the way he has to push himself off it to get up.

"Catalano" he says, hobbling over to Jordan, who's standing by the hammock with his arm around Angela, "I think Sharon and I'll be joining you."

"Huh? No. I mean.." Jordan frowns, but then Tino gestures over to Corey and Rayanne and the four of them look at each other resignedly, roll their eyes and head for the door.

#oooooOOOooooo#

"So how's Delia Fisher these days?" Brian says, when they put the movie on pause and Danielle heads for the kitchen to microwave some popcorn.

"What?" he says defensively, a second later when both Ricky and Danielle, turning to look back over her shoulder, scowl at him in disgust, "I'm just asking because I've been seeing her in the hall with Peyton Rawlins. Are they like, together or something?"

"They're dancing together in the play. She likes him" Ricky says "and it seems mutual, so far. I'm happy for her."

"Oh," Brian says, sounding disappointed "that's um, good."

"Yeah, it is good. I don't think you'll ever get another chance with Delia, Brian. You pretty much blew it."

"Yeah." Brian sighs. "So has anything happened with Katimsky?"

"Nothing new" Ricky says sadly "Not since Foster told him he's not coming back next term."

"Is there anyone Foster doesn't have it in for? Don't bother to like answer," he says when Ricky looks confused, "it was an um, you know rhetorical question."

"Our principal is nice. Mrs. Sullivan." Danielle says, walking back into the living room with the popcorn bowl.

"Principals seem to get less nice as you get older, Danielle," Ricky tells her "just wait."

"So you can't stay at Mr. Katimsky's anymore cause of your principal?" Danielle says, sitting down between the two of them, "I don't know why you don't just stay with us, instead of at Rayanne's. I mean you're here all the time anyways."

"And by next week I'll be at Pride House. In the meantime it works for me to stay at Rayanne's. That way nobody gets too sick of me."

"We wouldn't get sick of you Ricky," she tells him "we like you."

"Thanks Danielle. That's really nice."

"Now, Brian on the other hand" she says, looking at Brian and grinning when he rolls his eyes.

Janet's dumped him, he thinks, it's Saturday night, he's sitting on the couch at Angela's house while she's out doing whatever, he doesn't want to think about it, with Jordan Catalano, and her eleven year old sister is flirting with him. It's beyond ironic. And the really ironic part is that it's still it's an improvement on Saturday night alone in his room.

"Thanks Danielle, that's really nice" he says sarcastically, imitating Ricky's voice. "Pass the popcorn."

#oooooOOOooooo#

"Relax." Corey says, ghosting circles around Rayanne's nipples with his fingers.

"Okay" she whispers a little breathlessly, just before his mouth covers hers again. This actually feels pretty good, she thinks, surprised.

They've been kissing – just kissing – for a really long time now, and he hasn't seemed to be in any hurry to do anything else, so Rayanne actually is kind of relaxing. Even though it's highly irregular for her to not just take control and move things through the predictable sequence as quickly as possible, there's a sort of languid feeling that's taken over her body right now, and she finds herself melting into these kisses in an unusual but very pleasant new way.

"Corey?" she says later, when they pause for breath and her brain flickers on for a minute, "normally, I'd um, like want to get the next part over with, you know?"

"Yeah," he says, moving his mouth down her neck like he's getting to know every centimeter of it, "why's that?"

"I kinda go, um, numb down there, usually."

She's never told a guy this before, but she's never really felt someone paying this much attention to her before, either. She just hopes she hasn't killed the whole like, mood with too much information.

"How're you doing so far?" he says softly, without even seeming to pause, his fingers still tracing gently around her breasts.

"Um, good, so far" she says and kind of gasps at the sensations that are streaming through her as he moves his mouth slowly down to her chest.

"Good," he looks up at her seriously, "we'll stop whenever you feel like it, okay?"

"Okay" she says quietly, feeling almost like she might cry, but then the feel of his hands on her pulls her back into her body and her back arches a little to bring her chest up closer to his mouth.

"I think we can figure you out" he says, running a hand lightly down over her belly "it's not really rocket science, you know?"

There's a moment, an hour later, when his mouth is on her sex and his hands are stroking her, where Rayanne almost laughs at the thought that this may not be rocket science, but some kind of lift off thing is definitely going on here. And then, almost immediately, the thought is gone because she's in a whole new world, shooting and tumbling through space and it feels really, really good.

#oooooOOOooooo#

"C'mere" he says, shifting to look at her and pulling her up next to him so he can have his arms around her for another minute before she goes in the house.

"I don't want to go in" she murmurs, leaning her head against Jordan's chest, letting herself settle in as close as she can, feeling his arms surround her.

"Do you think you'll go somewhere far away for college?" she hears him say after a minute, with a carefulness to his voice that let's her know this isn't just some random thought coming out of nowhere.

"I don't know," She turns her head and kisses the base of his throat softly, "It's like, light years away. New York is kind of tempting. I haven't thought about it much though, you know?"

"Ummhum"

"Why?"

"Huh? Oh, just, I've been thinking about it a little. You know, cause guidance told me to. And they said how I should decide before next term, if I want to like, go. Then Foster said the same thing."

He seems nervous all of a sudden and she isn't sure why, except that sometimes he gets like this talking about school stuff.

"But, I think I'm not gonna do it. I mean I know I'm not."

"Okay" she says, feeling a little disappointed. It's not like she'd been planning that far ahead, but there had been a fleeting moment, when Jordan told her about his test scores, where she'd pictured them packed into his car, laughing and driving off to college together.

"You think so?" he says, and he must have heard her disappointment, because now there's an edge to his voice that she hasn't heard there for a while.

"Well, everybody made such a big deal out of your paper" she says, wondering what this is about, "and then your test results, you know? Maybe you shouldn't decide so quick, without thinking about it."

"I hate school, Angela. That's not going to change just because I took some tests, or cause I can like, read better. And I already told you I did think about it" he says, starting to sound agitated. "I mean I could wait till next term to say if I want to try and you know, do college prep classes and stay the two full years and try to bring my grade point up, but I don't like, need to wait. I'm not going to college."

Something's really wrong here, Angela thinks, because he's stopped holding her and he's actually rattling and sounding defensive.

"What do you mean, stay the two full years?" she says, moving away a little and turning to look at him, "Why wouldn't you stay the full two years?"

"Because I can go to summer school and that reading center place this summer, and then graduate next year" he says, sounding frustrated. "Is this gonna be some kind of a problem for you?"

"No!"

For a minute she just stares at him, at how stiff his jaw is, how upset he seems, while he looks out of his window, staring at nothing, avoiding her eyes.

Jordan, why are you talking to me like this, like I'm some like, parent or something?" she says finally, sounding really hurt, "just, you've made these plans you didn't even mention to me and now you're angry because I'm not all excited or something?"

Jordan looks at her and knows he's messing this up. He'd been so ready for her to disagree with him and so careful to not talk to her about it till he'd figured it out, and now he's not even sure why. Mainly he'd been afraid she'd try to influence him. Because of course Angela would want him to go to college, right? She'd think it's what's best for him. Maybe she'd really want him to try and be something he's not. Maybe she'd even push him to be something he's not, if he let her. And he might just let her, because he's so into her.

Angela swallows and tries to keep from crying. More than anything she's hurt that he's closed down and gone on the defensive with her. But she's disappointed too, and not just for him.

"What about us?" she says flatly now.

"What do you mean, what about us? We never thought I'd be going to college before. I mean I never did."

His voice lowers and he starts to sound unsure. "Did you?" he asks.

"I don't know. Maybe when you told me about your tests I did."

For a minute they don't say anything while Jordan stares at the dashboard and Angela tries to keep from crying.

"Is it so important to you, me going to college?" he asks, a little bitterly.

"I just think it's important for you to, you know, do what's best for yourself" she says, "to not, like, limit yourself."

She looks over at a stony faced Jordan.

"So not going to college, would be like, me limiting myself?"

"I don't know" she says, frustrated, "maybe?"

"Yeah. Or maybe me not going to college means you limiting yourself" he says, slowly "maybe you'd better go in."

How can everything be so wrong all of a sudden, she thinks, blinking back tears.

"That's not it. And I don't want to go in while you're mad at me."

"I'm not mad."

"You are too."

"Well, so are you" he says, sounding annoyed.

"I'm not. I just don't understand what's happening."

"What's happening is that you want something I don't want" he says flatly

"Wanting different things doesn't change how I feel. I mean about you" she says, and now her voice is definitely shaky.

He looks at Angela crying and feels torn in two. There's the part of him that would do anything for her and then there's the part of him that has to be true to himself. Up till now it's never felt like those were two different things.

"Maybe sometimes how you feel about people doesn't change how things are" he says, not even knowing exactly what he means.

He watches her eyes get big and scared.

"Okay."

She opens up the car door and now he feels all wrong inside.

"Look" he says, grabbing her hand, "I didn't mean for this to be such a big deal."

"No. You're right. Maybe how you feel isn't always the most important thing."

"Angela" he says helplessly.

"You could have talked to me about this, you know. Just a simple discussion before you decided. It would at least have been, oh I don't know, considerate."

Her voice is sarcastic now, and she doesn't care. "I mean it's not like I have anything to do with your life" she says, bitingly, because now, finally, she is angry.

She shuts the car door and storms up the steps, blinking back tears, while Jordan sits there in the front seat knowing he's fucked up, but not exactly how. After all, he can't go to college just to make Angela happy, right? She should be able to respect that, he thinks.

He turns the key in the ignition and starts to pull away from the house but then he stops. He's just remembered he's driving Ricky home.

#oooooOOOooooo#

"Hi?"

Ricky walks down the front steps, followed closely by Brian, and looks at a clearly agitated Jordan leaning against the car, smoking a cigarette

"Yeah" Jordan mutters, looking down, "hi."

Ricky gives Brian a worried look, and the three of them stand there for a minute, not talking.

"So, you going to Rayanne's?" Jordan says, tossing the cigarette down and stepping on it.

"Um, actually, I was going to ask if you could give me a ride to Louie's."

"Louie's?" Jordan looks up and frowns "Sure. Maybe I'll go in with you. You wanna come, Brain?" he asks, looking at Brian for the first time.

"Uh, okay. Maybe. Maybe I need to go get a jacket, though."

"Come on Brain" Jordan says, a little impatiently, "let's just go if we're going."

"Um, yeah. Okay."

"Here" Jordan says, opening the car door and handing him something, "you can wear this if you're cold."

#oooooOOOooooo#

Louie's is packed and noisy on a Saturday night and Jordan is already thinking how much he doesn't like this place before they've made it halfway through the door. And they're only gone a few steps further when a couple of guys, swinging at each other, back into them, knocking Brian over, and he hits the floor.

"Brain?" Jordan grabs his elbow and pulls him up "you okay?"

"I think so."

The back of his head is wet, and when he reaches his hand up to touch it he wonders, for a split second, if it's going to come back covered in blood, but instead it's clear and stinking of beer.

"This is disgusting" he says, pissed. "Janet dumps me and I end up here, on the floor, with beer in my hair."

"Janet dumped you? What's going on tonight?" Jordan shakes his head.

"Come on Brian" Ricky says, "let's go clean you up."

#oooooOOOooooo#

By the time he comes out of the bathroom, Jordan's leaning up against the wall with a beer in his hand, looking bored while two girls flirt with him frantically.

"You okay?" he says, looking at Brian, thinking how he looks really different with his wet hair slicked back and wearing his corduroy jacket, "where's Ricky?"

"He's um, talking to somebody. Hi," he says, looking at the two girls and noticing the incredibly nice frontal view on one of them.

"Hi" they both giggle "I'm Tessy" says the one he's staring at. "I'm Grace" says the other, and then they turn away and giggle to each other for a minute.

"Are they like, friend of yours?" Brian says, "I mean because I've never seen them at Liberty. And I like, think I would have noticed them, I mean, especially Tessy."

"Catholic school girls" Jordan whispers "seriously. I don't really um, know them much."

"So" Brian says, when the girls turn back to them "is what they say about Bishop O'Dowd girls true?"

"I don't know" laughs Tessy, pointing her chest up at him, "what have you heard?"

"I'll be out in back" Jordan mutters, slipping away, glad when Tessy doesn't even answer or look in his direction.

He walks outside, tucking the beer bottle under his shirt and leans up against the back of the building, thinking about Angela, wondering if this was just a fight or if it was the fight. He'd probably been reluctant to talk to her about it because he knew it would be a big deal, he thinks, looking up at the sky. He knows Angela thinks college is important, thinks school is important, but he's not so sure he sees it that way for himself. He's incredibly glad he's going to be able to read well enough to function normally, but that, and shop and being able to do basic math is about the beginning and end of what he's gotten out of school, as far as he's concerned. Aside from the social side of it, the whole thing's pretty much sucked up till this year. And just because now some tests say he's smart and he's liked some stuff in English doesn't mean he wants to spend an extra second going to school. He can't be somebody he's not, right?

"Jordan"

He looks over at Ricky and wonders how long he's been standing there, stewing about this, because his beer is finished, he really needs a cigarette and now Ricky's walking out the door with Frank Repniki, while right behind him is Brian with a slightly drunk Tessy, hanging onto him like he's some kind of trophy. "Amazing."

"I've got a ride with Frank" Ricky says, coming up to him quietly.

"Sure. Later" he says, watching them walk away together, and then looking over at Brian, who seems to be doing just fine with Tessy climbing all over him.

"Brain" he calls, and watches him untangle himself and walk towards him.

"She says she'll give me a ride" Brian says.

"Yeah. Just make sure she pays attention to the road," Jordan tells him "she looks a little, like, you know?" he looks at Brian and he nods "and give me my cigarettes, in the pocket there" he gestures to his jacket, holding out his hand for the cigarettes.

He puts them in his shirt pocket and then takes something out and hands it to Brian.

"And make sure to use these, okay?" he tells him, "she's like, been around, you know?"

Brian looks at him, wide eyed. "Okay?" he says.

He walks back towards Tessy, and Jordan pushes himself off the wall and walks toward his car.

"Ironic."

#